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  • Writer's pictureCamille M

Rebranding Networking

Turning networking from a dirty word, to the secret for your success.

A banner that reads - Rebranding Networking - Netowrking isnt just a dirty word, with three black and white photos showing groups of people networking.

by: Camille Mallon - Co-Founder of WiTCH


No, no, not that one…I'm talking about Networking!

But why? Last week WiTCH took a deep dive into Networking, what our members' thoughts were on the topic and why there is still such a stigma word the word! According to new LinkedIn global survey results, almost 80 per cent of professionals consider professional networking important to career success!

This is great, right? So why do we still shudder when the invite pops up for that cheese and wine networking event on Thursday afternoon. If we time travel back 100 years, trading was a requirement for the physical trade of goods….fast forward 50 years or so, and someone thought this same technique could work wonders in the business world, and it did, until the world became very “online”.

It used to be that you would show up at these events and know you would likely be pitched a service or shown a demo of something, and that's ok! However, more recently networking events I have attended have been a room full of people looking somewhat confused and lost as the thing they want to pitch can't be physically shown, or their boss has mandated “networking time”, without any real direction or reason to be there.

We asked the group what their assumptions and reasons were for being hesitant to attend a networking event…check these out:

● Conversation feels forced

● People are judgmental

● Attendees are normally out for themselves

● Nervous or anxious about attending an event alone

The list could go on. The overwhelming feeling was the immense lack of psychological safety and uncertainty. So why do we feel this way?

Ultimately human beings crave belonging, which usually comes in the form of a group or community of peers that we feel safe with, can relate to and have a shared interest. When we are thrown into a room with 100 people we don’t know, our prehistoric brains scream, “RUN!! You’re about to be eaten alive!!” Obviously, you are not, but how do you tackle that feeling whilst functioning as a human?

My advice here is to turn the spotlight away from yourself and onto the people around you and the interactions you are having. Nine out of 10 Sally from Accounts at Company B will be feeling very similar to you!

Be curious, ask (metaphorical) Sally how she is feeling about the event, ask her how she got into her line of work and generate a real interest in Sally as a person. Disclaimer, Sally will know if you are pretending! Studies show that our subconscious can pick up on these things from a mile away…remember the “RUN” warning?

In How to Know a Person, by David Brooks, he explores the mindset around genuine interest in a person, saying, “Every person I meet is unique, unrepeatable, and, yes, superior to me in some way. Every person I meet is fascinating on some topic”.

Imagine we approached every conversation like that; imagine how much we would learn from each other and the connections we would make.

At the end of our session, I asked the group something they had learnt or would now apply when thinking about networking….here are those networking tips…with a twist!

● Lead with empathy - This one is the leading value of a company that I used to work for; they taught me well! Remember that the people you are talking to likely feel nervous too. They may have had a rushed morning or have other things going on too!

Invite others into your conversation - Remember being that kid in the playground waiting to be asked to play duck, duck, goose? I do. Notice the people around you; if you see someone looking unsure, invite them into the conversation.

Try and quiet your biases. This one needs an entirely other blog! Remember that we all have biases, and that's ok! Our brain is trying to protect us by making assumptions about the environment. But sometimes, we need to tell our brain that they are getting it wrong.

Prepare! - Before the event, post online that you will be attending and invite people to chat. Say you’ll be the one with a red bag or killer shoes. This allows you to start connecting before you even get there.

Bring a friend…or comfort blanket - OK, maybe not the blanket, but do you have a fidget spinner or power suit? What makes you feel more comfortable? When you are more comfortable, you are more likely to make meaningful connections.

Be curious - Be more interested in the person, not their job. The work stuff will follow! Controversial opinion. I'm not particularly interested in the person's day-to-day work tasks; I'm interested in them. What's their why, do they have any cool hobbies, how can we connect that's not work-related?

Time to go - When the conversation is finished, say, “It has been good to talk; I'm going to go and talk to XYZ now, have a great event”. No one will be offended, and you may have helped the other person walk away too!

Name game - Associate the person's name with an object or behaviour to help remember their name. Sometimes it can be tough to remember conversations and names at events like this because of how many people you meet. Using mnemonic devices can help.

Know your why - Know the event you are going to and what you would like to get from it. Don't go to a trade networking event if you want to learn about cyber roles. Understanding what you are looking for from a networking event (and yes, just meeting like-minded people is enough) will help you network with a purpose.

Happy networking!

Please reach out to chat about networking workshops


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