What happens when you hear the word “networking?”
If you’re like the vast majority of people, you immediately feel a sense of anxiety—maybe even dread.
Small talk with a room full of strangers? The obligatory business card exchange? So many handshakes…. No thanks!
We all know networking is an essential component of career success. As the saying goes, who you know (and who knows you) matters just as much, if not more, than what you know.
So what’s a career-minded professional to do? How can one make peace with the idea of networking? Perhaps you’ve heard that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. That’s one way to think of it. But here are a few additional super-simple mindset shifts to help make networking a little more palatable.
Here are 3 Mindset Shifts that Will Change How You Think About Networking
Think “Give First”
Most people approach networking with the hope of getting something—a business lead or job referral for example. That can feel uncomfortable because you’re going into it with the goal of using people. Leveraging your professional relationships isn’t a bad thing—but it takes time to develop that level of trust. If you immediately jump into asking for favors, you’re taking advantage. No wonder it feels so awkward!
Instead, approach networking with a “give first” mentality. Offer to help others before you request help for yourself. Humans are naturally compelled by the Law of Reciprocity, which means if you do something for me, I’m more inclined to do something for you in the future. I’ll feel indebted to you and I’ll want to clear that debt by returning the favor. This shouldn’t be your motivation, however. Simply focus first on serving others, and the rest will fall into place naturally.
Think Like a Host or Hostess
Have you ever noticed how social events are completely different when you’re the one hosting them? There’s a reason for that. When you’re the host (or hostess), your number one priority is helping to make sure everyone else is comfortable and having a nice time. As a result, you mingle and make introductions. If someone is standing on their own, you pull them into the fold. You take personal responsibility for the success of the event.
What might happen if you adopted that same mindset at a networking event? How might it change the way you carry yourself? The way you interact? Might you feel more inspired to greet people or show them around? In my experience, it’s a very empowering role to play.
Give it a try at the next networking event you attend and see what happens. And remember: If you really want to play host or hostess, get involved in the group’s leadership. When you have a hand in the planning and execution of the event, it turns this game into reality!
Think “Quality Over Quantity”
I often urge people to set a goal when networking. For example, aim for introducing yourself to at least 5 new people before the end of the event. However, keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity. It’s better to have fewer, richer conversations than many surface-level exchanges. The number of interactions isn’t nearly as important as the substance.
Networking may still not be your favorite part of professional life, but with the help of these strategies, you should feel a little less leery of it.