How to actually enjoy networking

Being a student, who also happens to be on the executive team of a student society and working as an Event Assistant, I am thrust into networking opportunities all the time.

Many people (myself included) get flustered with even the thought of having to network. In fact, I remember when a friend within the committee said to me I should network more and all I was thinking was what…no please no! How? Help!…Freak out!! Followed by a brain dump of questions back at her.

Networking sounds like a really scary thing. Like having to talk to people you don’t know about …stuff. The crazy thing is we literally network with people every single day. The only difference is that we don’t label it networking. We call it interacting, chatting, meeting someone new or making friends. And those labels are so much less daunting! The moment I realised this, networking got a whole lot less scary.

I know so many people are still terrified of networking though, and this was certainly a key trend in our feedback from generationYOU Brisbane. So, I thought I would share my tips and tricks on how you can relax and enjoy the networking journey.

1 // Stop thinking of it as networking.

Why do we have no problem chatting to fellow students or passers-by at the train station, yet as soon as someone in a professional setting asks a question we instantly tense up? You see, when you stop thinking of networking as, well networking, and start thinking of it as building relationships, getting to know people’s journey and what things you have in common, networking actually sounds like a pretty awesome thing. Relax – at the end of the day they are only human too.

2 // It’s about building meaningful, mutual, long-term relationships.

I feel like so many people view networking as this opportunity to leverage solely themselves in the space of a 10-minute conversation, and this mentality sets them up for failure and bad experiences straight away. This is one of the biggest mind myths we need to change. The core of genuine networking is establishing meaningful, mutual, long-term relationships.

Imagine if you were trying to make friends and all you did was talk yourself up 100% of the time and paid attention to solely your benefits and interests?

a. Bye Felisha, and

b. you are now the real-life Nigel no friends. Nobody likes a self-absorbed person putting themselves up on a pedestal. You won’t make friends and you won’t build networks.

Instead, focus on one another and hearing each other’s journeys, learnings, mistakes, tips, tricks and building a relationship that is going to last. You would rather have a smaller network of meaningful mutual relationships that you can call on for advice, than a large network of people you know nothing about.

3 // Be yourself.

Sometimes, young people like us feel so much pressure to portray ourselves as capable, professional individuals that we forget to be who we are and show our personality, because we’re concerned what the other person might think.

Be yourself. If you’re trying to be something you’re not, you will be stressed, you won’t enjoy the experience and ultimately you will be too worried to focus on what the other person is saying to you. After all, it’s probably best to find out that you and the other person don’t ‘click’ in the first meeting, rather than trying to be someone you’re not.

4 // R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

The single, biggest, all-encompassing tip of the day – respect. If there’s a single thing to remember, this would be it. One time at a networking event, I was introduced by one person (whom I’d just met) to another person, who then continued to have their life catch-up conversation to each other like I wasn’t even there for what felt like forever, before I eventually politely interrupted and said, ‘thank you but I need to leave,’ (which I did!). And do you know, to this day I still think of how rude they were and how little they made me and my colleague feel.

Respect is what will get you far in life. Use it, and be genuine.