How I learned to love networking

How I learned to love networking

Back when I started my freelance writing business I knew clients weren’t going to show up unless I put myself out there. I had to start networking right away. The problem was I had no idea what I was doing. Much as I like people, I’m an introvert so I was never going to be good at throwing myself into the middle of conversations. Cue lots of standing around awkwardly holding a wine glass.

I have to hand it to myself. I tried it all. Local networking. BNI. Speed networking. Meetup. I went to all of them. I didn’t always get clients but I learned a lot about what to do (and not do) in networking situations.

When I first started out I thought networking was going to as many events as possible, giving people my elevator spiel, handing out lots of business cards and voila… people would call and hire me.

But that’s not how to network and it never felt right to me. Networking isn’t about selling yourself, it’s about building relationships.

It’s about being genuine in your interactions and asking people questions about what they do and what kind of challenges they’re facing. That’s how you find out useful information that will help your job (or client) search. Don’t forget, networking isn’t just something you do to find a job, it’s also hugely valuable when you’re making a career shift or making a decision on which career path is right for you.

Here are a couple of power tips to help you start networking even if you break out in hives just thinking about it.

1) Network in the groups you’re already in

I’m a great believer in pursuing the path of least resistance. Why make things hard on yourself? Start networking in the groups you’re already in, whether it’s your kids’ sports events, social outings or a hobby like a running group meet-up. Ask people about what they do, what they enjoy about their work and how they got their jobs.

2) Bring a wingman or woman 

If you want to attend a networking event, bring along a wingman or woman. This is a particularly effective tactic if you’re an introvert because hopefully your more extroverted friend can introduce you to people and help you out if the conversation stalls. Your comfort levels will go up automatically when you know you’re not going to be left hanging in the corner like a wallflower.

3) Create small challenges

If you’re nervous about attending events like I used to be, give yourself small challenges and then reward yourself for a job well done. For example, stand up and ask the speaker a question if you’re attending a conference, or give yourself permission to go home after you’ve met and talked to two new people. Remember networking is more about sustained effort than pushing yourself to the max at one event.

4) Practice having conversations with strangers

Another issue I used to have with networking was making small talk. It only occurred to me later why this was. I hate small talk. I’ve never been good at it. But if you want to broaden your network you’re going to have to learn to get good at it. You can do this by practicing talking to strangers or people you interact with on a regular basis, like checkout people at the supermarket or the woman who works at the post office. Strike up conversations with people you don’t know. The more you do this, the more natural it will become and you will be a power networker in no time.

Keen to learn more about networking?

I’ll be running a Networking for Introverts workshop in Melbourne in April where I’ll be teaching powerful strategies for building your network, and I’d love to have you there. You will learn how to create a network even if you’re starting from scratch, how to approach people you want to meet both online and in person, how to network your way into a new job and how to build your confidence so that you can network with ease.

Sign up here to get the details.

Don’t let shame get in the way of your job search

Don’t let shame get in the way of your job search

When I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, “Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again”—my gut reaction is, “What a badass” ~ Brené Brown

A couple of years ago I interviewed for a job I really wanted. It was only a casual job but I knew it was a great opportunity to get my foot in the door and work with some great people. The only problem was I blew it because I was so nervous. I was blindsided because I expected to ace that interview. And I should have totally aced that interview. Instead when the time came, I could not make my brain connect with my mouth.

I left feeling mortified and every time I did a mental replay I felt more ashamed. By the end of the day I had convinced myself that I could never apply to work there again.

When I reflected on this later I realised that my perfectionism was driving the ‘asshole’ story in my head. So I came to my senses and reached out to one of the interviewers. They offered to give me feedback, we kept in touch and recently I contacted him to see if we could have coffee or a phone call. Of course he said yes (this happens way more often than you think by the way). I called him and we had a great conversation. If he remembered the interview he never let on.

Looking for a new job can leave you feeling raw and vulnerable. You’re putting yourself out there and some people are going to flat out say no. Like me, your confidence might take a hit. But it’s all fine as long as you learn from it. If you can worry less about what people think (a perfectionist tendency) and instead focus on what you can improve next time around then you’re on the right track.

In the words of Brené Brown: When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun. And as I discovered, shame can lead to unhelpful stories in your head that get stuck on repeat, blocking you from getting ahead.

When this happens my advice is to throw those guys out of the car and get back out there any way you can.

Even if, like me, all you do is pick up the phone.

Because that phone call led to a job offer.

Mistakes won’t define your future unless you let them.

Keep on rising like a badass.

Where is your happy place?

Where is your happy place?

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions ~ Dalai Lama

When it comes to your work it’s just as important to figure out the where and the how as it is to figure out the what.

For example, if you’re INFJ like me, you’re probably not going to love working in a busy open plan office where you’re interrupted every five minutes.

Likewise an ESFP is not going to like working home alone all day.

Your workplace can make you truly miserable so it’s worth taking the time to consider what type of environment would suit your personality.

Do you know what your type is? Go here to take a free test.

When you think about your ideal working environment what appeals to you?

  • A high energy fast-paced environment
  • A quiet peaceful space where you can work alone
  • A small family business
  • A large multinational company
  • A physically demanding job
  • Working from home
  • Collaborating with others
  • Meeting lots of different people every day
  • Having no schedule or fixed hours
  • Working at your desk every day
  • Working outdoors
  • Entertaining people
  • Helping others
  • Motivating others
  • Work that is stimulating, exciting and full of drama
  • Work that is stable, routine and predictable
  • Working overseas
  • Work that requires a lot of travel

Write down everything about your ideal work environment in your journal – the location, the people, the tools and technology you use and what kind of space you would like to work in.

What kinds of jobs come to mind when you think of your ideal environment?