For many, the word networking induces immediate cringing, myself included. But for those of us who rely on their connections to make an income, like bloggers and small business owners, networking is essential. What if networking became a natural part of your routine that you barely had to think about? Sound impossible? Read on.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a good friend about her flight home to Boston. I nodded along as she told me about the new Chipotle in the airport, and how she bonded with the woman sitting next to her over her French bulldog.
Then, she casually mentioned that she walked off the plane with the woman’s business card and a meeting scheduled with her company the following week.
Excuse me, what? I asked her how she did it, and she shrugged and told me they “clicked”, and it just happened. Ah, okay. This was one of those random encounters (read: miracles) that “just happen” to outgoing, chatty people.
Then I realized that there are ways to network and create these moments “just happen” all the time, even if you’re not a classic extrovert. Try working the following steps into your day, and you may find yourself making new connections without the cringe-worthy networking.
Step 1: take off the headphones
Step 2: uncross your arms
Step 3. take a deep breath
Step 4. smile
Step 5: compliment the person next to you
Check your favorite news site in the morning, sign up for a daily email like The Skimm, or even grab a newspaper. Pick out few stories that you are comfortable discussing, and suddenly you have a list of conversation topics. Current events are perfect because the person you’re speaking to either knows about it too or they’ll assume you’re more clued in they are.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still tempted to walk through the airport gate with my headphones on and immediately curl against the window to avoid all possible human interaction. If that’s your first reaction too, take a moment to think about it. Instead, you could make a new personal or professional connection. What do you have to lose?