When people think of networking, it’s often misconstrued as ladder climbing or BSing in order to get something you want. The word “networking” is defined as interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career. Obviously, it isn’t possible to network alone and when networking is done right, all parties involved are bettering their careers through the exchange of information. Networking is not necessarily a selfish act. In fact, the best networking results are often the product of focusing on what resources and expertise you can offer to your fellow networkers. Building a network takes time, patience, and excellent communication skills, but once it’s in place, comes a feeling of empowerment and influence from strength in numbers of ambitious, motivated individuals.
If you’re looking around a room assessing who could help you with your project or who could offer you a job, you’re doing it wrong. Instead, think of what skills or opportunities do I have that could help someone else. This might seem obvious, but the more you explore what gifts, skill sets, and contacts you bring to the table, the more confident you will be introducing yourself and the more opportunities will present themselves for you to showcase those skills, talents, and opportunities. Instead of “This is why I’m great,” think of, “This is how I fit in.”
2. Attend events and mingle.
Los Angeles has some of the most glamorous parties at which attendees are making deals, auditioning (often unknowingly), and making lifelong friends and industry connections. If you’re new to LA, you might be wondering how to break into that scene. There are a number of resources available to help you dive into Los Angeles mixer mania: CityGyd, MeetUp, Eventbrite,LA Guestlist, TimeOut, (oh…AND LOOP MAGAZINE)! These sites and publications post events throughout Los Angeles. Start RSVPing and don’t be shy. The connections you make at non-exclusive or ticketed events can lead to more exclusive, selective or niche events and parties. Don’t be afraid to ask people what else is going on and what’s coming up. Remember, your presence is of value in itself.
3. DON’T expect to meet valuable connections at the club at 3AM.
Networking, alcohol, sleep-deprivation, and drugs do not mix. Why? Because you have to remember the names of your new contacts and the conversations you had with them. You also have to be able to hear them speak over the music in order to even have these meaningful conversations. We’re not saying that it’s impossible to make connections and new friends at the club, just don’t expect it. Some of the greatest deals in history have gone down in clubs, but be cautious of substance-induced inflated egos, lack of transparency, and overly eager social climbers and users.
4. Learn to read the room.
There’s really nothing more important than reading a room of people. Being able to understand the personalities and attention spans of the people you’re with sets you apart from the pack. Almost anyone can blend in and say the same thing that everyone else is saying but reading a room is what allows you to listen for just long enough to know what jokes to make, what’s appropriate, and what the group and individuals will find interesting and different. Do research before attending the event. What is the venue? What kind of people does the setting usually attract? Who is talking about the event on social media? It’s almost always the right time to network, but occasionally people do not want to talk about business. Waiting for the right opportunity to speak. You don’t want to come off too eager or hammy but you also want your voice to be heard and be remembered. Remember, 15 seconds is all you need to make an impression.
5. Be confident on your own.
Wingmen and women are great for partying and dating scenarios but if you can’t network without stepping out of your comfort zone and going it alone, you might want to work on that. It’s like art— whatever doesn’t add to the image, detracts or distracts from it. In this case, you are the image and your friend or colleague might be distracting from new potential connections and employers. Unless the event is of benefit to them as well, you’re there to meet new people and it may be tempting to just engage with the friend you brought. Unfortunately, it’s often more difficult for people with social anxiety to succeed in this kind of environment. At the end of the day, it’s not entirely fair for those who are less socially inclined or have social anxiety. Some jobs require the people they hire to attend events, make connections, and socialize on a regular basis. The good news is there are ways of coping with social anxiety and even overcoming it. Check out the app Steps: Beat Social Anxiety for instance.
Networking should be fun and not daunting. At the end of the day, you’re at an event to make friends, be in the moment, and be yourself. Showing up is half the battle. It only take a moment to meet just one person who can make all the difference for you and your career and you can make all the difference for them.