Today we’re going to talk about networking but, I promise you, this discussion is going to look different than most of the networking discussions you’ve had before and it will be especially helpful for those of you out there who DESPISE networking…especially you introverts.
If you’re building your business, you know that networking is incredibly important to its success because you need to make connections and build relationships with key partners, advisors, investors, clients, whomever in order to keep achieving. The more people who know you and your work, the better.
But for many of us, networking also just feels gross and slimy. When we think of going to a party with friends and meeting some new people, that sounds fun (or maybe not if you’re a true introvert – overlay this on video, don’t say it). When we think of going to a conference with colleagues and intentionally trying to meet the right new people, all of a sudden there’s an ick factor.
Lucky for us, there’s some new research out there that tells us that the old saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” might not be telling us the whole truth. In a New York Times article in August, Adam Grant notes “It’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network.” He continues on to say “For entrepreneurs too, achievement is a magnet to mentors and a beacon to backers.” You should definitely take a look at the article to see study after study and example after example cited by Grant in which accomplishment led to a great network before that great network led to even more success.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to network. What it does mean, however, is that you can be a more successful networker and take the ick factor out of it if you’re networking because you have something to contribute to the conversation as opposed to something you want from it. Clearly, you’ll always have something that you’d like to get from it as well, but I can’t overstate how much easier networking is when the conversation shifts from what you’d like to do to what you have done. Suddenly, you’re doing less active, slimy networking and more of accepting introductions that others would like to make because they see where you can add value and now introducing you raises their profile instead of costs them social capital.
While I’m definitely not as cool as the people in the examples that Grant gives, I went from cold contacting prospects to basically always getting an introduction or having people cold-calling me simply by getting ish done.
So the moral of this story is introverts, don’t despair. You can’t avoid networking if you’re building your business but, if you get focused on accomplishing something worth sharing, networking will get a whole heck of a lot easier.