The Opinionated Manager

learning to trust my own opinions and expertise

Hopeless networkers: REPRESENT!

Leaders network with purpose

I would never describe myself as a people-person.  It’s not that I’m not nice (I am), or that I don’t like being with people (I do), it is just that I am not really very good at it.  I mean, for goodness sake, you’re dealing with a person who will (and frequently does) dart and weave in order to avoid catching the train home with actual friends so that I don’t have to indulge in small talk when I’m not feeling it (I’m never feeling it).

Now, being the self-aware type, I know that networking isn’t my strength and so I purposefully place myself in opportunities to meet and connect with new people at work.  Absolutely everything you read tells you just how important networking is, so I base this on the theory that practice will eventually make perfect.  As I am (ahem!) currently Acting  Manager of my unit (have I really not mentioned that yet?!), I am filling my calendar with appropriate events and meetings at which I can REPRESENT!

I went to one of them today – and bolted out the door as soon as the speeches were over so that I didn’t speak to anyone.  No really, not a single person.  That is how absolutely chicken-shit I am.  I think I told myself some gibbers like Oh I’d better get back to the office and finish picking my nose (or something equally as important).

I have form in this arena – my work actually gives me plenty of opportunity to work on my networking and communication skills – lots of cocktail functions with industry reps, students and staff; Meetings with Graduate employers; University-wide education and networking events – and I put my hand up to attend more times than not, because I know that I need to Do This.  And then I only talk to the people that I know for the entire time, unless champagne is involved, and then once I have drunk a bottle or so, I will do my duty and talk to randoms.

Reflecting upon my behaviour, spotlighted by this afternoon’s shame, I know that I can do this communicating and connecting bizzo.  Of course I’ve done it before, with nerves, yes, but also with a good degree of success.  The key, as far as I can see, is that I need to have a Purpose in order to engage with strangers effectively.  It’s not just that there is then something, naturally, to talk about, but that it lends a Legitimacy to my approaching people in the first place.  I think that that is the most terrifying part – saying Hi and then waiting to see if I will be accepted into further conversation.  That further conversation shouldn’t be a problem: I’m generally pretty up on current affairs, I have an entertaining home life (well, you know, I have kids), I write a blog (surely that in itself makes me thoroughly fascinating), and frankly, I’m a nice person.  So I can definitely contribute to a conversation without sounding like an idiot.

It seems that the trick for me might be to NOT go to every opportunity that crops up, but to find events where I can identify a purpose to my attendance, and which can also provide me with a reason for engaging others in conversation.  This sounds remarkably like the social media engagement advice that is out there – the scattergun approach is useless, it is all about finding the right people and forums to engage with.

Now, tomorrow I am attending an entrepreneurial competition event.  So, to put all this reflection into practice, my purpose will be to understand what support the University provides to students/academics who are looking to make an impact with their innovations and ideas.  Knowing this information can directly assist me in my role, as my team receives these types of enquiries and also because Graduate Employers are increasingly offering competitions and opportunities to engage with students around an innovation and entrepreneurial space. I think this gives me something to talk about to others in the audience and at the function.  I’ll let you know how I go.


Linking up today with I Blog On Tuesdays at Essentially Jess


9 comments on “Hopeless networkers: REPRESENT!

  1. becc03
    May 27, 2013

    Good luck!
    I have the same issues both at networking meetings and twitter. I am random unless of course champagne is involved and then….well you know that story 🙂
    So I will take your advice and try to figure out my purpose.
    Becc @ Take Charge Now

    • Katyberry
      May 28, 2013

      Honestly, I wish that it was acceptable to have a glass or two of wine before any networking event – I swear, just enough to make me a bit more relaxed, I’m not talking about roaringly drunk or anything

  2. Me
    May 28, 2013

    Good luck – I too am bad at networking – I don’t ‘do’ talking to strangers very well. K went through 12 years of school and at the end of the 12 years we still didn’t know any of the other parents !!!
    Have a great day !

  3. Salz
    May 28, 2013

    I love networking online and off line. I tend to be different in person until i get warmed up and relax a bit then the real me comes out. So i can be shy and stand back a little observe the happenings and the people around me. it’s much easier if you go along with a person you know if it’s possible.

  4. Karen
    May 28, 2013

    I think most of us find speaking to strangers a challenge. I’m a self-professed people person but there are still situations that I struggle with. I think you’re right in setting goals, and once you get used to it, you become more proficient and confident!!! #teamIBOT

  5. EssentiallyJess
    May 29, 2013

    Yep,I’m exactly the same. Sometimes people just exhaust me, and I struggle to make aimless chit chat. Love that you just throw yourself in there though. That’s kind of my goal as well, though I usually panic right before hand and call it off 🙂

  6. Beth
    May 30, 2013

    This sounds very familiar….
    When you bolt out of the place just watch you don’t knock me over in the doorway doing the same!
    PS Love the blog, I’ll come back and read more.

    • Katyberry
      May 30, 2013

      Oh God! We might get stuck in the lift together and have to make friends. The Horror!

  7. Pingback: Top 5 Professional Influences | The (Mildly) Opinionated Manager

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This entry was posted on May 27, 2013 by in Personal Development and tagged , , , , .

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