Networking might sound intimidating and stressful— especially to introverts—but does it have to be difficult? Not of you take the right approach, according to Jessica L. Levin, president and chief connector at Seven Degrees Communications.
Levin is the author of the new book Perfect Pairings: The Art of Connecting People, shares her best tips for how to network, even if you’re painfully shy. Read on for her advice on how to get out there and get ahead by helping others.
“The premise of the book is that most of the time, helping the people that you meet—by introducing them to other people who can help them—creates good karma that comes back to you. Now obviously you can’t connect people if you don’t know people, so you have to spend time cultivating your network and going out and meeting people so that you can do this in a way that’s comfortable for you.”
“Get involved, whether it’s through your community, through an organization that’s charitable, or a business. Find a group of people that you’re comfortable with and attend events. Meet people. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. If you go to something, make sure that you’re meeting one new person. It’s not just meeting them, and exchanging business cards – it’s finding a way to create a relationship with them, following up with them.”
“It’s something that I’ve learned over time, that if you ask somebody to do something for you, maybe they’ll do it, but you’re going to have much better chances of other people helping you if you live this intentional lifestyle where every time you meet someone, the question is not ‘How can they help me?’ but ‘How can you help them?’ When you take this approach, it makes it easier – people WANT to help you, because they know that you are a giver.”
“In Perfect Pairings, I talk about that I can be a really shy person, and I’ve learned to overcome that. Being an introvert doesn’t mean that you can’t be a good networker. It just means you have to find the best place to do that. It might not be through going to a cocktail party. It might be something that’s more intimate. My whole thing is, I would much rather go to lunch with somebody than be in a big room full of people. I’d rather get to know people on a one on one basis, which is a lot easier for an introvert to do than to go into that room and try to be social.”
Keep your relationships going – online and off:
“Networking as a concept is people meeting and knowing each other and helping each other through life. Social networking is one platform to do that, but it’s not the only platform. I’m a big believer that social networking fosters relationships, and can create them and keep them going, but the real magic happens in fact to fact interactions.”
That said, Levin believes introverts may feel more relaxed when they connect via social media:
“I say to people, if social media is where you’re comfortable, start it there, figure out what online communities you can be a part of, but then, work on individual relationships from there, whether it’s a phone call or a Skype, or if you’re local to somebody, going out for coffee, going out for lunch. Start in the environment that you’re most comfortable in.”
Think of networking as another way of making friends:
“One of the things I was taught early in my career – and I know not everybody’s comfortable with this – is that some of your best clients become your best friends. Now, the content of your conversations… not everybody’s comfortable with baring their soul, and that’s okay, but the more you get to know somebody by listening to who they are as a person – what they like, what keeps them up at night – the more you’re going to be able to figure out how you can help them.”
Everyone Can Network, So Give it a Shot:
“There is networking for everybody. Figure out what it is that you can offer another person without getting anything in return, and as soon as you start doing that, you’ll be amazed at how people respond to you. I wrote Perfect Pairings to be able to help people do what has changed my life.”