You want nothing more than to be as far away from this moment as possible. How did your attitude recede from studious and joyful to this level of uncomfortability so quickly?
If you have “been there”, you are not alone. It’s called networking paralysis. The debilitating crisis that comes from forced interaction. No one likes being told they have to talk to people or they have to make new friends. We like to allow our live communications to be spontaneous and organic.
Overcoming Networking Paralysis
Networking isn’t always about finding your next job, looking for a new business partner or searching for your next client. The purpose of networking is to build and grow your personal connections and relationships in ways that will benefit you or your business.
While it is good to go into any networking opportunity with a goal, it is unwise to enter with high expectations and the objective of sealing multiple deals on the spot. That would be like going to a singles bar and asking the next person you meet to marry you. It’s just not socially acceptable.
If you set your expectation too high, you’ll feel like you’re being a burden, and you’ll paralyze yourself right out of the relationship.
I recommend you enter the situation with the purpose of making yourself known and liked. You need people to know you exist, you are listening and you have a profound interest in them. If they like you, they are more likely to want to help you when you ask.
Timing and the effect of desperation
“I have a great job, I don’t need to worry about networking right now.”
Sound familiar? This is the worst possible approach you can take to networking. When you fail to network in your current role, you’ll be in a world of hurt when you’re no longer in that role. You’ll be entering a world where you are unpracticed, a world you know very little about.
That leads to desperation. People can smell your fear from a mile away and are immediately turned off. If they believe you are speaking to them as a stepping stone for a greater want, you’ll find yourself repelling them instead of compelling them. Very disappointing indeed.
My advice… Don’t wait.
Don’t Network, Serve
So here’s the deal. Networking is a waste of time because it’s eating up all your energy by stressing you out, and causing you to procrastinate. So stop networking. It’s wasting your time.
Do this instead…
Serve. Go out and find ways to be of service to others. Instead of networking for your own purposes, network as a gift.
Confused? Don’t sweat it. Here’s how easy it is.
Call someone up and say “let’s go have a coffee”. Then sit there and listen. Ask them questions about what is going on for them in their work and personal life. Listen for opportunities to assist. Ask them if you can give them some advice, share your experience with their same problem, or provide a resource you know that would be very helpful to them. If they say “yes”, then share.
Be of service. Why? Because there’s this little rule in life we call reciprocity. If they like you, and you help them, they will help you back when you need it.