It’s February 4th, and that means it’s International Networking Week (I know you all had it on your calendars already!)
Apparently, January is a prime time for networking burn out, and that makes sense. It follows on a long season of holidays and entertaining, when we’re trying to fit in the last of our CLE requirements, meet up with family and friends, and rush to finish all of our end of the year work. So as we kick off February, who is really feeling fresh enough to network again in a way that’s going to effectively develop business for you and your firm?
Let’s look at four tips that will ease you into some networking in a way that doesn’t feel too overbearing, but will still help you to accomplish your goals.
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. But to ensure that this is working, make sure that you are truly networking with them – take them out to lunch or for drinks, ask them about their business, find out about pressing concerns, etc. Yes, you want to be broadening the relationship, but this is also about networking. Bonus points if you introduce people you like to other people you like to form additional network connections.
Change it Up
I’ve talked before here on Zen about the importance of reviewing the event schedule before you go to a conference, 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 or networking events 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 gal 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. Or stepping out of a cocktail reception and checking your smart phone in a bathroom stall.
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.
Another way to make “me” time into part of your networking routine is to step away after meeting someone and use that time to make notes about your meeting with them on their business card. It gives you that breather from the event, and you’re less likely to forget what you spoke about. That way, you’re getting a few moments alone to recharge, but you’re also making the most of your networking time.
Another suggestion is to revamp your elevator pitch to combat burnout – 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 – ask them what their favorite part of their work is. When you get someone talking about the part of their job that they like, they’re automatically more enthusiastic about answering you, and you’ll get interesting information about them that you can use to build a connection. In addition, you’ll be more engaged in the conversation because the other person in, and you’ll be more memorable to them, because you got them to talk about something that is exciting and interesting to them.
It may feel like you’re in the doldrums of winter, and networking is a slog, but during this International Networking Week, why not cut yourself a break, try these burn out preventatives, and see where your networking takes you this month.