If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume we have many things in common, especially our thoughts on the networking.
Networking makes my skin crawl, but artists and creators find themselves in this situation often. The thought of walking into a room of strangers, completely alone, and being expected to shake hands and kiss babies makes me want to run back into my comfortable little house and dive under the covers, turn off my phone, and live there for days.
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Even entertaining the thought now is making me break out into a cold sweat.
So yes, I dislike networking.
But, I know that I dislike it. I know that I’m not a naturally gifted networker, and I’ve come to realize that’s alright.
Coming to to the realization that “It’s okay to be bad at networking and to absolutely hate it with a fiery passion” has helped my networking more than anything else.
Since then, I’ve been able to make myself walk into many a crowded room and keep my composure. Here are some other tidbits I’ve learned along the way:
Usually, artist types haaate small talk. It can feel like such disingenuous bullshit.
But y’all! Small talk can actually be a wonderful way to get to know someone on a somewhat deeper level, it you look a bit closer:
“Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” are great, simple, expected questions that can help you find something you both have in common.
Find out that you actually don’t have anything in common? That’s okay! We’re used to having the same conversation over and over again, so take this opportunity to surprise someone with a unique question. Ask them what they’re passionate about. If you don’t know a single damn thing about their answer, even better — ask them to explain it to you. People get so excited when they get to talk about what they’re most passionate about, and passion, dedication, and sacrifice to follow a dream is definitely something you can both talk about on the same level.
Honestly, it’s 100% okay if you don’t talk to every single person there. It’s absolutely okay if you don’t even talk to a lot of people. Heck, even if you only talk to 1 person, that’s great! The point is, there is no standard, no limit, no human interaction quota that you have to meet. If you went to the party and met one person before you said, “Okay, that’s enough for tonight,” you WON.
Not everyone is a social butterfly. Not everyone has the same amount of energy to dedicate to these things. If you show up, you’re already doing it right.
Don’t look like a deer in headlights. If you smile, you look like you maybe kind of at least might want to be there. This can do wonders for your interactions with people. Fake it till you make it, babe. If you put on a happy face, it will actually start to make you feel happy. If you sulk and hunch and physically act like you’re as scared and/or as bored as you really are, other people will pick up on that.
I’m certainly not saying you have to pretend to be someone you’re not. But I am saying that you’ll have a better time if you at least give yourself over to the moment and put on your biggest, bestest, friendliest smile.
This is a golden rule of networking, whether you’re super friendly or completely hermit-y. It’s way cool and way kind to take the attention off of you and let someone else run the conversation.
Not only does it take pressure off you, but it get’s people talking and feeling important!
Do yourself a favor and bring a ton of business cards. Give them out like candy. There’s no shame in it. “It was so nice to meet you, let me give you my card!” and hand it to them. This is expected at networking events. No, you don’t look slimey, No, you’re not being pushy. If you’re shy or under-confident, then this may be hard to believe, but I promise it’s true – people will want to keep in touch with you!
After you’ve had a great conversation with someone, you’ll want them to remember you. Although giving someone your email might feel easier, they won’t remember it once it’s lost in their phone’s data, so business cards are great reminders as they pull their wallet out of their pocket later that evening. You never know what seed yours might plant in someone’s mind.
I have a bestie who is an absolute networking genius. She is so sweet and bubbly and freaking great at it. I don’t know what I’d do without her. I rarely go to a networking event without asking her to come along.
There’s no need to feel like you have to do this thing alone. Bring a buddy!
If you’re an artists who networks often but never enjoys it, I hope this helps reframe your experience. How cool would it if instead of dreading networking, you were excited for it?