Caught up in a net(work)

I’ve talked about my ambivalence over the the whole concept of “networking” before, but I think I’m making some progress in getting out there. The strangest thing about it so far is that this well-documented introvert with a timid streak and a fear of rejection has become someone who doesn’t wait to be asked – in formal online-networking settings, I’ve extended more invitations than I’ve received. But they keep being accepted, and I guess that gives me some confidence. My exposure and involvement in the blogging community is slowly growing too, as I join memes and find new blogs through old favorites; and people are finding me too.

(And for the record, being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t have decent people skills, as Pam discusses in this post. I think it’s my shy tendencies that work against me more in that area than my introversion, since although I’ve assumed for years that the traits go together, I’ve read recently that it ain’t necessarily so.)

I recently had the chance to review this book on online networking for women. I thought it was very good, except for the part where the authors make their case that online networking doesn’t replace the offline variety – it’s a “clicks and mix” thing. Bummer. I was really hoping to escape the “mix” part, but author Diane Danielson has kindly offered me a copy of her earlier book on that topic, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from it – thanks, Diane! In any case, till I’m ready to wade into all that, I’ll keep it going here on the internets. In addition to my own little corner of the blogiverse here, you can find me here and here, if you’d like to. (And really, if you’re a working mom – WAHM or WOHM, whichever – or even an I’m-going-to-work-again-someday mom, why aren’t you over at Work It, Mom? Please pay a visit, and if you like what you see, join the community – and then ask me to join your network! :-D)

But if good old face-to-face networking is unavoidable, there’s some great advice on making personal connections in this post from Pamela Slim’s Escape From Cubicle Nation blog, in which she talked about a 9-year-old networking whiz she met while at the playground with her kids. These are some of the lessons she learned from this encounter:

  • Be interested. …Ninety percent of new networkers focus on their own elevator pitch and sounding important. Instead, follow the sage advice I heard from Jim Collins a number of years ago: Be an interested person, not an interesting person.
  • Be real. …Instead of puffing out your chest and trying to sound important as you connect with new people, be down-to-earth and let them know what you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to say things like…”These networking events always make me feel slightly queasy. Do you want to go grab a drink?”
  • Notice what is important to the person you are networking with. …(I)f you are communicating with someone in person or online, pay attention to what is important to them. Read their blog, their books, and note their interests. We are all creatures of ego, and it is hard to resist someone who really notices what we like. (Note to the single among you … this is good dating advice too!)
  • Ask for an introduction. …Don’t be so polite that you miss the opportunity to shortcut a connection to an interesting person. The worst that can happen is that someone refuses to make the introduction, and you can gracefully move on to another way of connecting.
  • Be nice to everyone. …Too often, I see people brush anyone off who doesn’t fit their “target profile.” What they don’t realize is that the receptionist, waiter, college student or elderly woman at the grocery store that they treat rudely could hold a golden key of introduction to someone they desire. Not to mention that it is just bad karma.

According to the authors of The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking, the cardinal rule of networking in any setting is making sure the other person is comfortable. For some people, it seems to come naturally, but it makes sense – focusing on the other person, by definition, makes you less self-conscious, doesn’t it? And that makes everyone more comfortable. I’ll keep working on it.

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  • If it’s any consolation, you are not the only one with introversion/networkphobia.

    I’ve thought about putting together a SoCal blog meetup. But then I worry because I SUCK at running such things!

    You may want to think about attending BlogHer this summer (it will be in San Francisco, so won’t be too difficult to get to). I went to the first two, met several fabulous women AND it turned out that while I was having fun, I networked myself into some good professional opportunities. (If you go, let me know so we can hang out!)

  • Donna – It is a consolation, believe me. It seems that it’s not uncommon to be more outgoing from behind a computer screen than in so-called real life; I’ve encountered quite a few self-professed introverts who don’t come across that way online at all. So there’s hope. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have been thinking about attending BlogHer next summer, actually. I haven’t mentioned it to my husband yet, though…last year’s conference was the same weekend as Comic-Con in San Diego, and he was talking about wanting us to try to go to that this year. But if I do go to BlogHer, I’ll definitely let you know – I’ll be very nervous, though!

    Maybe if you do end up putting together a SoCal blog meetup, I could get my feet wet there :-).

  • You can count me among the self professed introverts. I manage well behind the computer, but face to face is another matter. I’m really rather shy in person (although around people I know well, my shell disappears). The mix part you mention makes me nervous too.

    The tips you listed that Pamela learned are pretty much how I go about trying to network both online and in real life. Where I fall short though is my own lack of confidence in myself. While on the computer I have no problem making introductions–well, almost no problem–in person, my shyness gets the better of me. I’m not good enough, not interesting enough–all those types of thoughts run through my mind. I have found that focusing on the other person does help some, but it hasn’t completely erased my own lack of self confidence.

    When all is said and done, I still feel like I have little to offer the other person, while he or she has given me a lot.

  • Literary Feline – I totally could have said that myself, including the parts about the lack of self-confidence, being less shy around people you know well, and feeling uncertain that you have anything to offer. (I read your blog – you have a LOT to offer!)

    I love how the blogosphere lets people like us find each other!