Networking Tips: How to connect with other nice humans
Updated: Oct 21
Humans are social creatures. Networking is good for your career. Having a good career can be very satisfying and allow you to support your family and community.
That all sounds fine and logical. So, why do so many people find networking challenging?
“Networking” can be a loaded term for many, especially introverts or those who have been subjected to some negative sales-type interactions at events. The term makes many feel nervous and vulnerable, like being a kid on the first day at a new school.
Here are tips to help you grow your network, and they all boil down to: Networking is just another way of saying “connecting with other nice humans”. That doesn’t seem so scary, does it?
You don’t have to connect with EVERYONE. I like connecting with other nice humans. If I feel someone is being obnoxious, I move on.
You don’t need to feel at a disadvantage if you are an introvert. This advice is coming to you from someone with a kindergarten report card that stated something like “is very quiet and needs to talk more.” Introverts can succeed by beginning with intention, and giving themselves some quiet time afterwards to recharge.
Do you have “activity friends” (low-pressure, low-commitment friendships from doing a regular activity, like fitness class, taking your kids to the playground, or going to the dog park)? We probably all have these connections because it is more natural to let them occur than it is to avoid chatting with these recurring companions. What can we learn from these interactions?
Good job! That was “networking”.
Small talk may seem like it is just filling space, but it’s a social ritual that allows us to explore how much we want to engage with the other person
If you have an interest related to your profession, it’s just as natural to make “activity friends” in that area too.
Help others who are in your situation: find others flying solo & buddy up. It’s a win-win because now none of you need to have awkward standing alone moments, and all of you can introduce each other to people you meet there, growing all your networks faster.
Go in without expectations, but rather with curiosity. This takes pressure off your shoulders and makes meeting new people more enjoyable. Let polite curiosity inspire conversation topics. Opportunity can still find you - sometimes the path is non-linear and takes a few hops.
Re-frame the event as a learning experience. You will meet people with different perspectives. People will talk about things that might spark new ideas for you, or they might recommend a great book/blog/podcast in your areas of interest.
Outside of Networking Events
Building on the “activity friends” idea above: Do you have interests with Meetups, or clubs, or teams? For those who do non-team sports like running or swimming, there are clubs that make the experience more social. Many cities have social clubs spanning a range of budgets - Country/City Clubs are at the high end, and there are many volunteer-run social clubs that can cost under $100/year to join. People join social clubs to meet others, so it’s a receptive audience for networking!
Volunteer! It’s a great way to give back to your community while connecting with some really nice humans who support a cause that you care about.
Be a catalyst. Once you’ve connected with a whole bunch of great humans, you’ll probably realize that there are common interests between people you know, who don’t know each other. Set up an informal get-together where they can meet each other. I recently introduced a few folks because we all produce training content, and we had such great conversation connecting as humans, over a bottle of wine, that we forgot to talk about producing training content :)
I hope these tips help you to grow your network, succeed professionally, and potentially even make some really good friends.