If there is one thing I’ve learned from my involvement with ASDA, it is the power of networks. A strong network can open doors and help you stumble onto new opportunities. Yet the idea of networking makes many people uncomfortable. I’m a natural introvert so my idea of a perfect Friday night includes curling up in bed with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. The thought of roaming around a room talking to hundreds of my peers is quite intimidating. Through practice, I’ve honed my ability to network and meet people. Here are five networking tips that have helped introverts like me connect with people at events.
1. The ability to network is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the better you get! Some people are naturals and work a room of people with confidence and ease. For others, networking is a struggle. Carrying a conversation with hundreds of people in a jam-packed room goes against an introvert’s natural instincts. But it does get easier with practice! After three years attending various ASDA-sponsored networking events, I find networking a lot less intimidating now. I’m by no means an expert. But I’ve definitely improved my networking ability since my early days as a wallflower.
2. Grab a wingman. It can be quite intimidating for an introvert to approach a group of people by themselves. Instead, find a friend at the event. It’s easier to approach a group of people as a duo. Also, if conversation with that group of people does not work out, at least you still have someone by your side to talk to!
3. Everyone has a story to tell. This is one of the most sage advice anyone has given me about meeting people. “Everyone has a story to tell,” they said, “your job is simply to figure out their story”. This takes the burden of the conversation off you. Instead of pretending to be the most interesting person in the room, you simply have to ask questions and get to know the other person. People naturally love talking about themselves. People also love it when they have common interests with the person they are meeting. Think of networking as an opportunity to ask questions, learn the other person’s story, and find common ground!
4. A little earnest flattery goes a long ways. I always think back to one of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Some people may cringe at the word “flattery.” But the truth is, everyone, even presidents and CEOs, simply want to feel recognized and appreciated. It’s human nature. (The trick is to say something nice and true!)
5. Pay it forward. One of my favorite networking books is “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. In his book, he reveals that the secret to success is summed up in one word: generosity.
“That’s what I mean by connecting. It’s a constant process of giving and receiving – of asking for and offering help. By putting people in contact with one another, by giving your time and expertise and sharing them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone”.
His main message is that people shouldn’t keep score. Hoarding your network will not make you successful. Instead, make introductions among your contacts. Connect people to someone you know who can assist them in making career or personal gains. By helping the people around you and making them successful, you are essentially increasing the value of your network!
~Stephanie Ting, contributing editor, Southern California, ’16
If you’re looking for networking opportunities now, register for ASDA’s National Leadership Conference in Chicago Oct. 31-Nov. 2. Register by this Friday (Sept. 26) to avoid late fees. Click here for a meeting schedule and registration details.