Have you ever been at a work-related function, where you and your cube mate stand in the corner, sipping cocktails and watching a colleague handshake his way through the crowd, maybe even hand out business cards?
Maybe you’ve thought, “What a suck-up.”
That may very well be true, but what’s also true is that this man or woman, who is getting acquainted with people in the crowd, may get ahead because he or she knows how to network and you’re standing there snickering.
How did you meet your best friend? Your significant other? You knew someone who knew him or her. Or you met at the gym or a bar or online.
We call that networking and anyone looking for the job needs to get over the misplaced negativity associated with the word and start doing it.
I used to attend industry functions all the time because I knew it was the thing I needed to do to get ahead and grow my business.
After scores of functions with no new contacts, I wondered if I really needed to keep going to these events. I knew that there was something to get out of them since successful professionals swore by them.
So I replayed the last few functions in my mind and a light went on. Although I meant business when I went to the events, I acted like a wallflower at a grade-school dance. I would bring a friend with me, and we’d stand off to the side and watch the action, talking about everyone instead of talking to them.
I was missing the point of these gatherings and missing opportunities that were there for the taking because I was clinging to my friend—as if she were a warm security blanket.
So I set a goal for myself: I couldn’t leave until I introduced myself to at least three people. (The first few events I attended after his self-imposed policy, all three people I approached were waiters.)
Finally I admitted that I was only fooling myself. I had to further refine my mandate: the three introductions had to be among people who were attending the function as I was. It has made an enormous difference: I have connected and partnered on projects with dozens of new people as a result.
So next time you’re at an event, don’t hug that wall: get up some courage, hold out your hand and say hi to someone new.
By Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire