It may be counter-intuitive, but it's highly productive.
Research suggests that up to 80% of jobs are found through networking.
Stop and actually consider that statistic: as many as 8 out of 10 people find jobs by networking (not cold emailing their resume).
Jobs aren't the only things found, either - an astonishing number of clients, business transactions, and partnerships are still established through face-to-face networking.
We all know this. The problem is, for many of us the prospect of networking is about as appealing as going to the DMV. Raise your hand if you dread filling out "Hello, my name is ___" stickers and making small talk about how "neat" the venue is.
This is particularly true for introverts, who tend to prefer making deep connections over shallow ones.
So here's a radical suggestion: If you're an introvert, start using this strength of yours - forming meaningful relationships - to your advantage. Simplify networking by making it your goal to just do this at events:
Make one quality connection.
Don't force yourself to talk to at least 10 people. Let go of success meaning blanketing the room with your business card.
Instead, give yourself permission to do what you actually like to do: be drawn to an interesting person, and have a genuinely meaningful conversation.
There are three reasons this works:
1. It gives you a metric.
Part of the stress of networking is never knowing whether you're doing it right. Have you met enough people? Have you eaten enough baby carrots and hummus? Can you go now?
When you have one goal - make one quality connection - you know when you're done.
You didn't meet the whole room (which is good, because you'd be exhausted even if you just met a quarter of the room).
But you hit your target, so you can feel good about your performance and move on.
2. It takes the pressure off.
This is not trivial. If you hate networking, you'll avoid it. You'll skip the "networking hour" before the conference starts. You'll find a reason not to go to the happy hour your industry group holds monthly. You'll go to the panel but not the meet-and-greet after.
You won't get out there.
When you go into an event with the attitude of, "I wonder who my one quality connection will be?" it becomes more like an adventure. You have a spirit of openness, which is when you're most likely to meet a quality contact and be at your best.
The point is getting in the game, not being perfect at it.
3. It makes follow-up easy.
Everyone knows the secret to effective networking is following up. It's shows you have perseverance and determination. It guarantees you won't be forgotten. It stabilizes the connection.
Yet most people are poor at follow-up. I'd argue this isn't because they're irresponsible or ineffective - it's because they're overwhelmed.
It's not just the 15 business cards to sort through, it's the mental energy. It takes effort to try to remember, "Was this the bald guy with the glasses, or without? What'd he do again?" "I think this was the woman in the red pantsuit ... what did we talk about?" And, of course, "Who is this?"
When you only cultivate one contact per event, follow-up is easy. It's just one thing on your list.
Matt Youngquist, president of Career Horizons says, "At least 70%, if not 80% of jobs are not published, yet most people are spending 70 or 80% of their time surfing the net instead of getting out there, talking to employers."
It's not just employers. Networking helps with career advancement, finding new clients, building relationships that will become important should you ever need to transition out of your job, and attracting new opportunities you haven't even thought of yet.
Get out there.
Image Credit: Getty Images
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