I never liked networking, felt uncomfortable around strangers and hated speaking in front of crowds. But I made myself do it because I knew it was going to benefit my future self. I made a conscious decision to attend every networking event that I could fit into my calendar and even joined the rowing club. Now, I have people in my network that I met in those early days, and those relationships have served as the foundation for my personal and professional life.
I’ve learned a few things about meeting new people:
1. Don’t be afraid to walk up and say “Hi, I’m so and so” smile and extend your hand. Most people are just as uncomfortable as you to break the ice, but once initial greetings are made, you’ll find the vast majority of people are happy to share information and ideas.
2. Don’t limit your network to like-minded individuals that have everything in common with you. Try to incorporate as many people from diverse industries, experiences, cultural backgrounds, education, language etc. This will not only broaden your perspective, but will also provide you with a much wider pool to tap into when looking for ideas, inspiration or assistance.
3. Networking is not transactional: don’t expect an immediate benefit for your contributions, give freely, and take freely, it’s all about helping each other out, not running a tab.