Networking is The buzz word here in Washington, DC. It is this kind of a magic combination of sounds that makes every Washingtonian, young or old, gather in stomach, remember a well-rehearsed elevator speech and ensure the business card is within a 3-second reach. Or at least this is what I gathered from our cultural adaptation session of immersion training.
Ever since that training, the idea of conventional happy hour networking seemed somewhat unsettling to me. I have discussed the phenomenon of networking with loads of people from my fellow fellows to seasoned top managers. Here are some random ideas of how to make the networking effective and less stressful (they just happen to be counter-conventional happy-hour networking. The author never claimed to be un-biased):
- Do you need to network? Pure networking events work better for senior-level professionals: the people who actually make decisions in a company. With a big picture in mind, they are more capable of recognizing potential partners and building those strategic relations.
- Targeting is of utmost importance in networking. You need to define a) who you would like to talk to, b) where you would like to meet that person and c) what you would like to discuss. Networking is more than just trying to outroar the crowd with your elevator speech to whoever happens to pass by over a glass of half-priced wine in a jammed bar (excuse the bitterness, it’s an introvert thing).
- Speaking of networking for introverts: being in public places and communicating requires much more energy from introverts than from extraverts. To all introverts out there: it helps being realistic about your energy levels and planning accordingly. One event per week instead of five? Possibly. Choosing thematic smaller-scale events instead of general gatherings of hundreds? Might work. Meeting tête-à-tête over a morning coffee instead of after-work drinks with colleagues? By all means!
Arguably, Washington attracts world’s brightest minds and offers unprecedented networking opportunities. It’s worth going out of your comfort zone and taking advantage of these opportunities. Just think strategically and tailor your networking efforts to match your personality.