When I first tried networking, it didn’t work.
Starting Career Story two years ago, I also started faithfully attending networking events. As I gravitate towards the introverted side of the personality spectrum, I’ll admit it was challenging to walk into a room full of new people, but I was determined to not let that stop me.
Like any good type A personality type would, I read up on how to effectively network. One of the recommendations was to craft a pitch, something punchy and engaging to get people excited about you and your business.
So, I put a pitch together. And let’s be honest – it wasn’t great. It felt contrived and just not authentic to me.
Plus, with meeting so many people, I was exhausted and frustrated with how superficial it felt. Just a mad frenzy of exchanging business cards with no lasting relationship.
At some point, I took a step back to ask what I valued. I wanted connection and relationship, not a transaction.
I also asked myself what strengths I could use in networking. Some of the traits that came to mind were sincerity, curiousity, kindness, and thoughtfulness.
Going back into the networking scene, I started by ditching my pitch and made it about building relationships.
I also started to experiment with language that felt more genuine. When people asked me what I did, I’d started off with a simple introduction and let the conversation naturally move forward from there.
I’d ask lots of questions of the other person (my natural curiousity coming through). And as the conversation evolved, I’d share more about what I loved about my work if asked. I found that speaking from my passion and my heart was a much better way to spark conversation than anything else.
I also started to think of the people I was meeting as potentially longer-term professional relationships. This took the pressure off the first interaction. Even if the initial meeting was a wee bit awkward (which they often are), I’d think, “Well, this is just the start, hopefully, I get a second chance.”
From there, I’d stay in touch with people via LinkedIn. That’s where the thoughtfulness of my personality comes into play. I enjoy helping people so when I can, I forward along any relevant resources or try to introduce people within my network.
And if I had a great conversation with someone at an event, I’d invite them for coffee or Skype meeting. I love a good one-to-one conversation and hearing about people’s passions and work. These networking meetings have become one of my favorite aspects of being self-employed.
Recently, my friend, Rachael Maxcy, and I started running Career Hack workshops, a non-awkward networking event where women could a) form authentic relationships and b) get input on their careers or business through intentional conversation, basically like a personal Board of Directors.
I love it – this is everything networking should be. We’re running our next Career Hack workshop on July 17 so we'd love for you to join us. Tickets here: https://bit.ly/2JHrdGD
Kristin Vandegriend is the founder of Career Story where she has helped hundreds of her clients successfully transition to work they love. She supports her clients to uncover their strengths and communicate to get what they want in the workplace.