3 Networking Tips for All
When we hear the word networking, we all have some immediate reactions to it. For some it may be a feeling of excitement, for some, it may feel like a task, for others it might be a feeling of complete dread, and of course everything in between. One framework we can use to understand this is the personality type framework. I’m sure most of you have heard the words introvert and extrovert. Except, most times, it’s used as an either-or. Well, this isn’t quite right. It is actually more of a continuum between being a “total extrovert” all the way to being a “total introvert.”
Additionally, it is important to understand that the main difference between being an introvert vs an extrovert is where we source our energy from. Extroverts source energy from interpersonal interactions. In other words, being around people is exciting and stimulating for extroverts. Big groups? Bring it on! Introverts on the other hand, source their energy internally and can experience social interactions as an energy drain. So tempering the social interactions via smaller groups or in situations where there is a mix of interactions would be ideal.
So how do we normalize networking?
As you can see, it can get quite intricate. So, why is this important to networking? Well, besides the obvious of having a good sense of ourselves, it is also an important aspect of engaging with others, which brings us to why we’re talking about networking. Networking can be such an integral part of how we learn, grow, and connect in our professional lives. But networking shouldn’t just be about attending a meeting, gathering business cards, and adding new people to our LinkedIn circles. It should be a fuller, richer experience than that. The truth is, some of the best connections happen when we are least expecting it; In line at the grocery store, waiting for an elevator, on a trip, at a nail salon, etc. The biggest point to make here is that when our guard is down, we are our most authentic selves, and the more real we are, the better we connect with others! So, before you sign up for your next big networking mixer consider these few tips:
Know your personality type
This is a great place to start because as I mentioned before, the better we know ourselves and how we thrive in connection, the easier it will be to pick between networking styles and opportunities as well as topics. Catering to our strengths is the best way to start!
For instance, both Vanessa and I have similar yet different relational and personality types. Vanessa is always up for meeting new people and attending events any chance she gets. She has no problem initiating conversations and consistently seeks out new social connections. As for me, while I enjoy getting to know and work with all types of people in all-size groups, I also find most comfort in small familiar groups and will sometimes forgo larger social interactions for a quiet night in.
Choose events wisely
Below are a few different types of networking events that range in level of engagement and size of event. Taking these elements into consideration when choosing networking events may help you feel a greater sense of accomplishment and productivity when choosing based on your personality type and learning style.
Mixers: Mixers are usually small to medium-sized on a guest list and more social in nature, mixers or socials often have themes intended to attract individuals with a common professional or social interests.
Workshops: Workshops can range in size from small to large. They are lecture/presentation heavy with collaborative breakout small groups. They focus on one professional subject and work on deepening understanding on that topic as well as intersectionality with other relevant topics
Seminars/Round Tables: Seminars are smaller in nature and are more discussion heavy. They can be ongoing and offer multiple parts/sessions.
Conferences: These are larger in nature and often run for multiple days. There are daily agendas with options for multiple topics in one overarching unifying theme as it applies to a particular profession or trade. The smaller groups range from seminars, workshops, lunches, dinners, and awards ceremonies.
Gala/Fundraisers: These are larger events that are primarily social in nature and used to bring awareness to important socio-political issues, or to raise funds for programming and organizations.
When you are choosing your next event, of course consider topics and interests, but also take into consideration the type of event and how it may compliment your personality type. Each type of event has something to offer everyone and there is no right or wrong. However, when starting off, we do recommend you start with the size and structure you feel most immediately comfortable with, and then work your way around to other types of events as you build confidence and efficacy in the networking world.
Have fun and connect
Last but not least, remember that while networking might not be your first choice for a night out, it really can and should be enjoyable! This should most definitely be a goal while considering attending an event. As I mentioned earlier we are most likely to make connections when our guards are down and we are more “ourselves.” As you might imagine, when we are enjoying ourselves we are more “ourselves.” If you are feeling apprehensive or too tired to attend, consider declining an event. If you are not up for it then it won’t feel beneficial. I will also say, be honest with yourself and check in on whether this is the time you should push yourself to get out there and make a connection. Remember networking is not about checking off a box, it is about making real, meaningful connections with really wonderful people that can help you feel seen, connected, validated, and motivated to take your career to the next level, as well as hopefully be the one to connect and share those experiences with someone else. Give & Take!
Finally, it doesn’t matter if we like large or small groups, social or academic-focused events, the important reflection when considering networking is that as humans we thrive on connection and belonging. Finding a group that helps us feel connected and supported is essential to holistic success and wellness.
We hope you see you out there!