Why I Hate Networking.
It’s true. There is little I hate more than the act of working a networking event, to be honest. The older I get, the less I enjoy spending time in a room full of strangers & trying to get to know them. This is why you rarely will see me at a traditional networking event. It’s just flat-out not my scene!
I’ve always labeled myself as an “extroverted introvert.” I thrive when I’m around people, soaking up the energy others put off & I really love meeting new people who are up to cool things. On the flip side, my alone time is… (insert chimes & angels singing “ahhhhh!” here!)
The ironic thing is, I’ve built a business with the intention of creating a community where women connect with each other. I like to think of what we do at The Dostal House as “socializing” rather than “networking,” however, & the list of reasons I hate networking is long:
1: I hate generic grocery-store-line talks about the weather.
I mean, seriously. Everyone has too many things to do & not enough time to do them… can’t we just skip over this meaningless small talk? In a perfect scenario, I’d love to cut all the bullshit & jump straight to the real, authentic meat of the conversation. Oh, the struggles of being a very direct sort of black-&-white person living in a very grey world.
2: I hate feeling like the interactions I have are all backed by a hidden agenda.
It seems that “networking” has become a contest of who can collect the most business cards. It’s a hunt for who can help you advance the furthest in the quickest way possible, & that just feels gross to me. It’s a popularity contest of people bragging about the highlight reels of their life, & putting on a fake front & it’s all just so superficial. Yuck!
3: I hate the cliquey circles that always seem to form at every function.
Maybe it’s the fact that I live in a big small town, but you see the same people huddled up together & that makes it hard (& incredibly intimidating!) to break into the circle. I often explain it this way: in our city, there are the people that grew up here & there are the people that have been transplanted here. The people that grew up here all know each other, & don’t really have to network, with the traditional set intentions of meeting others, because they already know how someone who knows that someone they wish to get in with. Whereas the transplants are very much on the outside looking in, being reminded of what the worst parts of high school felt like, & struggling to find a window open to the inner community circle. I’m not saying this is done intentionally. It’s just that, if you are from here & know everyone already, you don’t know what it’s like to not be in that position.
4: I hate the “so what do you do?” question.
Although I am incredibly proud of what I do & why I do it, & it plays a major role in my daily life, I am so much more than just this. I am also more than a wife & a stepmom & a sister & a daughter. I am more than the stereotypes society places on me, as a woman, & I hate the fact that most networking conversations start with passing snap judgement based on what one does for a career.
Honestly, I could keep listing off reasons why I hate networking… because it’s literally one of the things I despise most in life. However, I also recognize that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a statement that rings oh-so-true! So, what is a girl who hates networking but has a strong desire to be well connected within her community to do?!
1: I keep it real.
I hate networking events, so I flat out don’t go to them. Unless the content of the event is specifically geared towards something that aligns with my business, or I know that my dream clientele will be there in full force, I just don’t put myself in positions where I know I will be miserable. Instead, I read everything I can get my hands on that’s put out by my community & covering what’s happening within it. When I discover something cool that’s happening & who’s involved with it, I personally reach out & offer to treat them to a frothy beverage. I always know my intention going in: a learning opportunity, a collaboration opportunity, a sales opportunity, a relationship building opportunity, whatever… but I try to be respectful of other people’s time, because I want other people to be respectful of mine.
2: if I do attend a networking event, I go with a specific goal in mind.
Whether it’s a piece of information I’m looking to gather, a connection I’m trying to make, or a specific opportunity to share my story/pitch an idea, I know exactly what I want to get out of the networking event before I even walk in. This might seem contradictory to my hatred of networking events because of hidden agendas, but the difference is that my agenda isn’t hidden. & it’s specific. Again, I keep it real. I’m honest & upfront from the beginning of any relationship, & I feel like I’m able to get more done while avoiding the fluff stuff.
3: I do the research & I make the ask.
I know that my adorable personality is best displayed when I’m comfortable, & I’m most comfortable in 1-on-1 or small group settings. Because I know that wiggling my way into a circle of people who all know each other really well is exactly the sort of thing that will result in me having a panic attack in a bathroom stall, I really try to avoid the need to do this. Whether it’s reaching out to the circle of connections I already have & asking them to please make an introduction to someone or I’m dropping a cold email to a desired person I haven’t yet met, I take the time to do a little legwork to find some common ground. & then I make the ask. I don’t hesitate to ask someone for their time, because if I’m asking for it… well, I feel like I have something that will be of value to them. What’s the worst that can happen… they say “no”?
4: I give & take.
Because I have overcome the fear of putting myself out there, I tend to receive a lot of invitations to coffee for others to meet me & pick my brain. Now, I love talking about myself & I love meeting new people. I love sharing my ideas, because I (naturally) think I am full of only the best ones! I also struggle, however, with giving away so much of my time… I often think about this when I’m reaching out for coffee dates with others. Their time is valuable. My time is valuable. They have spent years busting their behinds & have invested valuable resources to get to where they are, & I respect that. I don’t expect them to give me all their secrets to success, so i don’t ask for them. If I’m looking for advice professional advice because I admire their career, I always ask if there is anyway I can get involved & help support their initiative. & manners matter. If I’m requesting the meeting, I will pick up the tab. A hand-written thank you note is a lost art form, & under the right circumstances a small gift as a token of your appreciation can go a long way.
How about you: what networking tips & tricks do you have up your sleeve?