Does the very idea of attending an event where you’re expected to network create feelings of discomfort, dread or downright fear in you?
Youâ€™re not alone.
Many people experience a strong negative reaction to just hearing the word â€śnetworkingâ€ť and I used to feel the same way.
Here are some of the reasons I and others whoâ€™ve attended my workshops on Networking for Success have shared to explain why they hate networking:
“It feels fake”
“Iâ€™ll end up stuck talking to a really pushy person whoâ€™s trying to sell me something I donâ€™tÂ want”
“I donâ€™t know how to begin a conversation with a complete stranger”
“Iâ€™m not good at small talk”
“Itâ€™s a waste of my time”
“Everyone seems to know everyone else and I donâ€™t know anyone”
“Iâ€™m an introvert â€“ networking is fine for extroverts but it doesnâ€™t work for me”
“I donâ€™t have anyone to go with and I hate walking into a room full of strangers alone”
“I feel Iâ€™m being judged and I may not measure up”
“Iâ€™ll have to deliver an introduction in front of everyone and I hate public speaking”
Did any of those resonate for you?
At one point in my life almost all of those statements were true for me, but something changed my perception of networking and it helped me re-frame my negative thoughts about the process.
The biggest change was forced upon me when I left the corporate world to begin my dream career as a speaker, workshop leader and life and career transitions coach. Iâ€™d attended occasional networking events in my decades-long IT career, Iâ€™d even been on the board of a local professional organization, but it had always been because I felt I â€śshouldâ€ť attend, not because I really wanted to. Iâ€™d generally arrive late (just before the speaker) and leave early â€“ does that sound like you?
As a new entrepreneur in Victoria, a city where networking is the way business is done, I had no choice â€“ I had to get out there and network in order to meet prospective clients. At first that was my primary goal and I worked hard on perfecting my â€śelevator pitchâ€ť to explain what I do. I went to events focused in finding prospects for my business and often came home disappointed.
Then I was invited to join a group which met every week and I had the opportunity to get to know the others in that group very well. It meant that I now had a group of local professionals that I could confidently refer others to and I enjoyed having that resource in my kit bag as a way to help others.
So what was the big breakthrough for me that got me past my negative feelings about networking?
I realized that building my network was really all about being curious about others and looking for ways to help them. I started going to events with an open mind and the goal of meeting people who seem to share my values. I wanted to get to know them so that I could share information about the services they offered and sometimes connect them with others who might wish to collaborate with them.
My goal is now to be of service to others and sharing information about my services is secondary.
This perspective has changed everything.
Networking has now become fun â€“ a way for me to meet new interesting people who might be valuable resources for others.
Iâ€™ve become known as a connector in this community and I enjoy helping others find the right resources to meet their needs.
My business has also benefited and I often hear people that Iâ€™ve never met before say â€śIâ€™ve heard good things about youâ€ť or â€śYou have a good reputationâ€ť and then theyâ€™re often curious and want to learn more about what I do.
I love helping others reframe their negative thoughts about networking and I hope this article has helped to do this for you.
So how do you find the joy in networking?
Make service to others your primary goal and
youâ€™ll find the joy in networking
If youâ€™re interested in attending one of my workshops on Networking for Success in Victoria, please check out the Live Events page of my website at SueMaitland.com.
I also deliver talks and workshops on networking for success to businesses and organizations upon request.
Sue Maitland is a speaker, workshop leader and ICF certified life and career transitions coach based in Victoria, BC. She has an international coaching practice serving professionals in life and career transition and loves helping newcomers to Victoria make a smooth and successful transition.