On Networking Blunders
All work and no play makes me a bad socializer
In the last 2 months, I’ve dropped the ball on my networking efforts. Reasons (or excuses) abound, but that doesn’t matter now. Unfortunately for me, if I don’t constantly give my networking and small-talk muscles a vigorous workout, they atrophy. Attending events becomes an exhausting chore instead of a pleasant and possibly productive way to spend an evening. It pays to stick to the routine.
A cautionary tale
I got my comeuppance at a local business soiree this week. An acquaintance rushed up to me with a person in tow and exclaimed: “Else, you remember John*, right?” And I drew a complete blank (so did John, to be fair). Instead of semi-smoothly saying something vaguely charming about having left my memory at home, I panicked. Cue the ditzy giggling and a helpless gushing of apologies. It was ugly. So I ran. Not my finest moment.
As is always the case, it hit me a few minutes later. I had actually worked with John earlier this year, but we’d never met in person. Our mutual acquaintance had recommended me, which is why she was so pleased that we were finally in the same room together. What to do? I wiped my sweaty palms on my pants and got right back in the ring. It’s near impossible to repair a bad first impression, though.
What’s the moral of the story?
- Come prepared: If you know certain people will be at an event, brush up on how you’re connected, projects you’ve tackled together, and any recommendations you may have made.
- Try to make networking a regular thing: Attending a fixed number of events per week or per month, keeps your elevator pitch (or however you like to introduce yourself) fresh and gives you less time to forget people’s names. It also takes the pressure off. At the heart of it, networking is just people relating to other people. It’s easy to lose sight of that in a sea of suits and business cards. Becoming an old hand at networking helps you see through the illusion.
- If things don’t go well, don’t make a big deal out of it, but do apologize: That’s what follow-up email are for.
- Bounce back: So you got a little egg on your face. The best thing about making mistakes is learning from them. It’s strange how we are often willing to cut someone else some slack, but are relentlessly harsh on ourselves.
- Are you immune to social anxiety? Or was there that one time that will live on forever?
*This is obviously a very fake name.