What is networking?
Let’s start with what it’s not. It’s not being fake or trying to be somebody else. It’s not about having an agenda and trying to push it on others. It’s not just handing out business cards at conferences.
People can sense if you have an agenda, and they can tell you’re not really listening to them.
So how do you network for real?
All you have to do is show up where other people are. At these events, you can not control the outcome or be trying to “get” something. Heck, when meeting people, opportunities can come up that genuinely you would’ve never thought of ahead of time.
This is why it’s best to just show up, and be yourself.
I hated the idea of networking. I thought it meant being fake and not being myself, until one day a mentor of mine pointed out that I already knew how to create a network, and that I had one already.
What does this mean?
Start with your friends. They’re your friends because you connect genuinely with them. Networking is the same thing.
If you want meaningful friendships and organic opportunities, make real friends.
Show up to events when everyone else is trying to push their way on everyone, and just be yourself. People will notice you listening to them.
It is very true that many opportunities come from whom you know. This can be viewed as good and bad. It feels incredible and great if you are receiving the opportunities. On the other hand, it feels terrifying if you’re out of an opportunity circle and feel intimidated to get involved. Don’t sweat.
I will repeat, you cannot control what happens at these events. All you can control is yourself and how genuine you are. Plus, you don’t have to attract everybody anyways. Right? You don’t want fake friends.
I used to think that you had to meet everybody at networking events. I was accepted into a music camp and made a promise to myself to meet all 70 people. I did it. But, I quickly had a mental break down.
So how many of those people do I regularly stay in contact with now? One.
One person, that’s it? This is not a problem. One person can change your life. Think about a time where this has happened: a teacher, a co-worker, a friend of a friend.
For those introverts out there like me who get nervous about the idea of networking, commit yourself to meet only one person at any time of a networking event. These can be parties, industry conferences, meetups, etc.
One person. That’s it. Anything else that happens organically is extra. Meeting one person isn’t a scary goal. You can do it. Just be yourself.