Honestly my first networking event wasn't all that great. At first I blamed it on my quiet, introverted nature, and things not working in my favour, but I read some articles, and talked to people I respect, and then I realized that a lot of it had to do with my actions and words. It was literally a month after I finished university, when I attended my first networking event, and I guess the real reason why I didn't do nearly as great as I wanted to was because:
My introverted nature makes it hard for me to tell my life story, on the spot to strangers, in person, without a lot of thought and preparation, and I didn't put much thought or preparation into my words or actions.
I hadn't built up nearly as much professional writing experience as I have now therefore I had a lot less confidence, and things to say about where I actually fit, in a real world context.
Ever since my first attempt at networking I've learned a lot, and grown a lot. I've become a lot better at adapting my skills to the needs of others, and figuring out who the right people to talk to really are. Plus I have better quality business cards! Speaking of business cards, If you have no design savvy whatsoever, and want an inexpensive but professional business card, custom designed, for you, I highly recommend Moo Cards
. The ones I use are based on a really cool writer template they offer. All you have to do is pick your template, fill in all the necessary info, select the colours you want, pay for the cards, tell them how many cards you want them to make, and where to ship them, when they're done making them, and you're set!
Ever since the unproductive, first networking experience I've adopted a new approach. What some of you might not know about me is the fact that I'm an actor's daughter, and being charismatic with strangers has never been easy for me. When I'm networking with an unfamiliar stranger, or even just meeting a casual acquaintance for the first time I think of it like actors do when they go to auditions. So basically my approach is the following: I play a role, in order to adapt to whatever the situation is. Only difference is that I don't pretend to be someone I'm not. I just do my some preparation in advance, in order to have an informed perspective on what I'm dealing with.
This time around I researched every company I was visiting, so that I could have small talk topics carefully planned in advance. As soon as i felt tired or overwhelmed by all the people stimulation, I stepped outside for a while. I also made a big point of following up with people, in any way I could, 24 hours later.
Two days later I found myself at a Halloween Party filled with doctors and medical researchers; I didn't intend to network with people that night, but my enthusiastically supportive boyfriend introduced me to some people, and then I blinked, and suddenly I was giving business cards, to people who were willing to accept them. In spontaneous situations like that there's no time to prepare, but at least handing them a business card might cause them to actually look you up online. A great tip for my all of my fellow shy introverts: stuff like this will eventually happen so come up with a good elevator pitch, of who you are and what you have to offer, in order to survive the spontaneity. For those of you that don't know what an elevator pitch is: it's the couple of sentences, quick, easy to understand explanation of your skills, work, and accomplishments. It's called an elevator pitch because it's supposed to be the same amount of time as it typically takes to get to your destination, in an elevator.
I use to find the idea of networking a daunting process, but really it's nothing to be afraid of. All you're really risking is the 50% chance that someone won't actually be interested in what you have to offer. I became a stronger person, with a thicker skin once I realized that honestly you can't please everyone, no matter what.