networking

25 Aug

I really need to get moving with networking efforts.  I was so insanely busy with the county bar association’s Young Lawyers Division in the spring, that I’ve let things slide over the last two months.  Of course, the last two months were summertime, so there are far fewer traditional networking events happening.  September is right around the corner, and I need to kick it into gear.

I know I’m not alone when I say that going to a networking cocktail party, just for the purpose of networking is my worst nightmare.  I hate hate hate those events.  Although I am very outgoing with friends and acquaintances, I’m very shy when surrounded by people I don’t know.  I’ve been guilty at arriving late or bolting early when a structured event is accompanied by informal networking.

I need to face that demon, and just get better at walking up to people, introducing myself, and getting to know them.  The techniques I’ve tried to work with before are:(1) get there early-ish so that I don’t walk in on a room full of people already broken out into groups and engaged in conversations, and (2) to keep the conversation going, ask questions, questions, and more questions. If anyone has any other suggestions about how to make networking cocktail parties less nightmarish, I’m all ears.

These are some things I’ve done to network, yet avoid the terrible networking cocktail parties altogether:

(1) Participate in a Board of Directors on an organization I’m passionate about.  This is tricky because you have to identify what you’re passionate about (tougher than it sounds), identify the organization and board that’s the right fit for you, and get yourself on that board.

(2) Participate in classes or formal programs.  In 2009, I participated in the Coro Women in Leadership Program.  The program itself was amazing and taught me so many leadership and professional development skills, and I made friends with professional women who work in all different industries in Pittsburgh.  Coro itself offers tons and tons of networking opportunities for its alums, and I really need to start pursuing those opportunities.

(3) Volunteer.  This at least gives you something structured to do and talk about, and is a good segue to introducing yourself to others (which is the absolute hardest part for me).  I don’t have the time to volunteer at a set organization on a consistent basis, but I do find plenty of single day/single event volunteer opportunities that are fulfilling and fun.

The (purported) networking tool I find least helpful is Facebook.  Facebook is great for keeping in touch with family and in-real-life friends.  There is nothing worst than becoming a facebook friend with someone you recently met in a networking setting, and then they flat out ignore you the next time they see you in real life.  You can’t go up to them and say “Hey remember me? I AM YOUR FACEBOOK FRIEND” because that is creepy.  I have no real solution for this.

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