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Five Networking Tips for Wallflowers

Some people aren’t natural networkers. You might be quite introverted or perhaps you have some deep misgivings about the concept of “networking” (maybe it seems fake to you, and you think it’ll mean “using” people). No matter, you can still keep up friendships and make new contacts – without having to resort to some the tactics some would call “sleazy marketing”.Here’s how:

  1. Be Yourself
    My first tip is to simply be yourself. I’m at my most comfortable when I’m being informal, and when I’m able to chat to people about things other than work! Don’t try to force yourself to network in a way that feels uncomfortable to you: if big corporate events seem insincere, avoid them. If all your colleagues are encouraging you to mass-email “useful contacts”, go for a personal and authentic approach that suits you, instead.

In the long run, the people who you want to surround yourself with are people who like you for who you are, and who want to do business with the “real you”.

This doesn’t mean you should try to be falsely chummy with people: as with the first tip, you should just be yourself. If a friendship doesn’t seem to be developing naturally, just leave it and move on.

You might even want to reconnect with friends from high school: with Facebook and other social networking sites, it’s easy to search for long-lost buddies and get back in touch.

When you update your own Twitter, keep in mind who from your network will be reading. Most people won’t want to know that “Bob is eating a sandwich”. Try to make your Twitters relevant to big happenings in your work and life. After you get started, this post will introduce you to some advanced Twitter tools.

Studying an academic or vocational course related to your profession is also a great way to meet people who are passionate about the same sort of work as you: I’m studying a creative writing MA and relishing the opportunity to work alongside lots of fellow writers.

If you’re “not the networking type”, how do you find new friends to help you in your work? Have you given up on seeking out clients and colleagues altogether, or have you found ways to make your personality work for you, instead of against you, in your attempts to make connections?

Written on 1/07/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: Incase Designs
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