My mom hates the word “sucks,” but I’m using it in my title for effect – “what, Lindsay thinks networking sucks?”
Sure, sometimes. And I’m sure everyone else does too. Who doesn’t get fed up with all of the things we’re “supposed” to be doing every once in a while?
We go to events, and we’re supposed to be flashing a bright smile, asking about other people, handing out business cards, never missing a meeting or a meal – it’s exhausting. And you can get burned out.
Fast Company had a post on this by Lisa Evans last January, prime time for networking burnout, she says.
But I’d argue that the fall is just as easy to see burnout as any other time of the year. Everyone is back from their holidays, school is ramping up for the kids, work has gotten busy again for the rest of us with new projects, clients back in the office, and more demands on our time. Yes, we may start out the month of September feeling fresh and with the best intentions to network our hearts out, but who really wants to fit that into their busy schedule as well?
So what do we do when burnout hits? Especially if burnout hits, but you’re already committed to, and attending, networking events? Evans has some tips in her post, and let’s tweak those a little for our purposes.
Network with People You Like
Let’s be honest, when we’re networking, there are people that you meet that you connect with instantly. Some of them are great for your business, and others are wonderful people, but the connection to how they may be helpful to you isn’t always an obvious one.
And then there are the people that you should be networking with, but even if they’re really nice people, you just don’t feel that “click” with them for one reason or another. You can still have conversations with them, they’re just not as easy as the ones you have with the people that you like.
To recover from your burnout, I’m giving you full permission to network with the people that you like.
That’s not to say that at some point you don’t have to get back to networking with new contacts, or check in with those people who are good connections, but maybe aren’t the close friends you know and like. BUT for the purposes of resetting your networking mojo, go ahead and mingle with your buddies.
It will give you a good feeling about networking again, you’ll be more relaxed about the whole process, and feel more rejuvenated for the next networking challenge.
Change it Up
I’ve talked before here on Zen about the importance of reviewing the event schedule before you go, and making sure to sign up for the sessions and events that make the most sense for your networking goals, or your firm’s goals in sending you to an event.
But when you need to re-set your networking energy, change that up. Head to the sessions that most interest you, whether they are going to be directly relevant to your practice or networking goals or not. Choose a function that may not seem to have a networking benefit to you at all – if you love cooking, take a class. Always wanted to try kayaking? Head out on the group trip during the free afternoon.
The idea here is to stretch yourself a little bit – to do things that may prove fun and creative for you, which will get your juices flowing again. You may surprise yourself and make really good business connections during these sessions, but more importantly, you’re going to re-set your networking button, and walk away feeling more engaged and energized – which is something that those around you will feel and gravitate towards.
And when we’re in a networking situation, don’t we all want to be around the people who are engaged, passionate and excited? Sure. We don’t want to be around the guy or girl looking for the escape hatch (although there can be benefits to finding the other people wanting to escape with you).
So I’m again giving you full permission to look for networking events that YOU think would be interesting and fun, or the parts of events that you’re already committed to that YOU think look cool. Check those out – throw responsibility to the wind while you rekindle fire for networking.
Take a Break
I always tell people attending networking events “Never skip anything.” It’s my top piece of advice, and I stand by it.
But today, I’m telling you to ignore it. If you’re burned out from networking, you have my permission to take a break. I’ve done it, and I’ll do it again. There are benefits to taking a time out, hiding in your hotel room, and eating a mini bar Mars bar while watching whatever half-hour rerun is on tv.
If you’re an extrovert, you may not need this time away from people to recharge, because you get your energy from being around people. But for us introverts, taking a breather alone is like a reset button – it helps you to take a virtual deep breath so you’re prepared to get out there again and network like a champ.
Evans also advises taking some “me” time, and even suggests a way you can make it a regular part of your networking routine:
Take a few moments after meeting someone to sit alone and jot down a couple of facts about the person you met on the back of their business card. You get a few minutes of reprieve away from the crowds, and will be better able to craft a more meaningful follow-up email rather than the generic ‘it was nice meeting you at “X” event.'”
That way, you’re getting a few moments alone to recharge, but you’re also making the most of your networking time.
Evans suggests re-vamping your elevator pitch to combat burnout, and I think that’s a great suggestion. By now, you’ve probably heard yourself describe what you do thousands of times to others, and it feels rote and stale, even if you like what you do. So how about making some changes – not to what you do, but to how you describe it?
- How do you help people?
- What do you love about your work?
- What makes you most excited about your work?
- What was your proudest moment in your career?
Take these things, and mold them into a short statement about what it is that you do.
And alternatively, make it about the other person – Evans has a great suggestion here:
While asking ‘what do you do?’ will result in individuals giving you their (over-used) elevator pitches; asking ‘what’s your favorite part of your work?’ causes them to switch up their words and, because they’re talking about something they like, they’ll be way more enthusiastic when answering. You may find out more interesting tidbits that you can later use to build a meaningful connection.”
Getting someone else excited about their response will also accomplish two things:
- You’ll be more engaged in the conversation because the other person is.
- You’ll be more memorable to that person, because you got them to talk about something that is exciting and interesting to them.
Search for Inspiration
Looking for networking inspiration can be helpful too, and here are two resources to get you started:
- 3 Reasons Your Follow Up Sucks (there’s that word again!)
- Networking Made Easy: 8 Conversation Starters For Those Who Don’t Know Where To Start
What are some tips and tricks you use for when you’re burned out on networking?