Networking: yuck! Right?
Do you dread going to the networking events at your professional conferences? Do you feel obligated, but not confident? Do you feel awkward and unprepared? Do you feel a sense of burden or despair when it comes to the mixers and the mingling? If you do, you have something in common with a large percentage of the others in that room. What is it that you have in common? Your title? Maybe. Your responsibilities? Perhaps. That most in the room feel the same way you do...yep!
Now, don't get me wrong. There are a few social butterflies in the room that feel like they are in Disney World at every conference networking session and that is awesome! I am so happy for them and give them applause for their social skills. I, however, do not fall within that category. That category, my brothers and sisters, represents the minority in the room. I am entirely in the majority within the group. That is correct. I realized years ago, that I was not one of the few in the large group that felt awkward. I was surrounded by hundreds that felt the same way. Hence, it is okay, most of us feel awkward until we get to know one another.
Let that concept liberate you, because the power of your network can sustain you during your most challenging times, lift you up when you are beat down, and provide you solutions to problems that you do not even know you have yet. Doesn't that sound good? What is even better is that you will be able to support others in your network, lift them up when they are down, and provide them solutions during their most trying times. If you are looking for a win-win. A powerful network is just that.
It all begins with an awkward conversation. Shaking hands with a stranger. Asking another if this seat is taken. Introducing yourself to a stranger. You never know where a simple awkward moment will take you. It can take you into decades of friendships. I have been blessed in my career to make make several really good friends that I can call brothers and sisters. I recall one occasion when a fellow City Manager told me that I should not eat alone and asked to join me for dinner. That was the beginning of a long friendship.
I am hoping COVID19 and this crazy Delta Variant will soon be in the rear view mirror. When it is, conferences and professional development sessions will be back in person. When you go this time, attend the mixer. Take a brave step forward. Take a deep breath. Begin a new friendship by introducing yourself. You are an amazing person. You have strengths, skills, and experiences others do not have. You bring value to the network. You will be happy you did and guess what. They will be happy you did as well!