The networking survival guide for introverts
Networking. Do you feel a slight pinch of fear and disgust in your stomach when you hear this word? Yes, you are not alone.
Turns out, networking can make people feel so gross that it translates to feelings of physical dirtiness, according to a study in an issue of Administrative Science Quarterly. Researchers found that professional, instrumental networking — the kind of planned, thought-out and calculated networking used to advance your career — leaves people feeling nothing less but physically dirty.
Also Harvard Business Review found evidence that 99% of networking is a waste of time.
If you have ever studied in a business school or something similar, you have surely heard that it is essential to be a good networker and that especially your career kick-off might depend on how agile and smart you move during those kind of events.
From the time you start studying, you are constantly being told how vital a network is to personal and professional growth. You are fed one-line zingers like “Your network is your net worth” and leave school hungry, nearly foaming at the mouth, trying to lap up connections and build a professional community as quickly as possible.
That’s why you end up going at least twice a week to ‘those kind of events’: a get-together after a fascinating talk of a junior consultant with a presentation full of SWOP and Porter’s Five Forces charts. The free-beer awkward stand-up after a workshop. The ‘Oh, and what do you do?’ bombarding you from every corner during a professional dinner (free food and drinks are the basic key to networking). I don’t even dare to mention the Career Fair where everybody wear a suit and a printed curriculum ‘just in case’.
Still, our professors and colleagues insist that we MUST do networking. It seems like it is one of those inevitable obligations, just like washing your teeth twice a day although sometimes you feel to tired to hold a toothbrush (without mentioning the dental floss).
Thinking about this terrifying issue, I did what a decent millennial does: I Googled ‘how to survive networking events’ and ‘tips for people who hate networking’. Awesome, you know what is the first advice that this article gave me? Be True To You. Dude, really?
I would love to give you an honest and empirical prove of the uselessness of it, but I am not really the researcher type. I can only say that my intuition and experience tell me that you can be successful professional without running to all the free-finger-food and what’s-your-name-badge events. I believe you can be sane and working without listening to people your age telling you about their ‘best growth hacks’.
If you’re an introvert and if you’re just not interesting in mastering the skill of small-talk (how about the weather-grocery chit-chat?), you probably have similar feelings. To sum up, there is only one reasonable advice regarding survival at networking events: Don’t go. Just give yourself a break.
They key to networking is to stop networking.