The House of Wellness: How to network like a champ – even if you’re an introvert - Michelle Gibbings

Thank you to Andrea Beattie and The House of Wellness for inviting Michelle to share her thoughts on networking and how it’s crucial to land your next job. 

For some, networking seems effortless. For others, it’s downright daunting. So, how do you stop being a wallflower and find the courage to start working the room?

There’s no doubt that networking can help you start, or advance, your career.

As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease – and workers who speak up are not only heard but also seen.

Workplace expert and award-winning author Michelle Gibbings says people who enjoy networking see it as a vital part of their role and a career accelerator.

“Many jobs are unadvertised, so networking is crucial not just to land a new job but also to help you identify what roles are available,” Michelle says.

For some, networking seems to be second nature but for others, it can be terrifying.

So, what makes a good networker? And can you find the courage to work the room – even if you’re an introvert?

What is networking?

According to Michelle, to “network” means developing and maintaining professional relationships with colleagues, stakeholders and contacts that can be internal or external to your organisation.

“At its core, networking is about building relationships, so there are opportunities all around you,” Michelle says.

A strong network can elevate your career as the people within your network offer support and advice, and provide connections and opportunities, she adds.

How to approach networking with confidence

While some people find networking enjoyable, others would rather walk over hot coals than attend a networking event.

So what should you do if you’re an introvert and not comfortable approaching people, let alone advocating for yourself?

Relatus relational strategist and chief executive Julia Palmer says even introverts can be effective networkers – but they need to understand what networking is and how to use it.

“Having taught introverts to network for nearly two decades, I’d like to be as bold as saying they make the best networkers,” Julia says.

“This is once they have applied a strategy to their activity, of course.”

According to Julia, networking – like most skills – is learnt.

“One of the most important aspects is mindset, which is predicated by self-talk – often negative, unfortunately,” Julia says.

“It’s so common for people to think ‘that person doesn’t want to meet me’ and this gets in the way.

“But introverts make great listeners, so the key for them is gaining the confidence to contribute more and lead conversations to where they need to take them.”

Golden rules for networking

Michelle says doing your homework on who’s attending a function or an event you’re going to can help make it easier to break the ice once you’re there.

“Think in advance of some conversation starters,” she suggests.

“During the conversation, focus your attention on the other person – rather than worrying about what to say, be genuinely interested in them.”

To succeed at networking, our experts also suggest you do the following:

  • Strike a balance between reaching out to people and asking for something and offering your help and support.
  • Try to ask open-ended questions – instead of asking “how are you?” ask instead “what’s been the best thing about your day?”.
  • Seek out people who will challenge your thinking and mindset.
  • Always look for opportunities to build relationships.
  • Be authentic.

Where should you network?

In business, it’s often said that it’s not what you know but who you know that matters.

Melbourne Business Network president Wendi Dawson says networking can help you connect with people who can advise you on how to grow your business or advance your career.

“Networking does not mean selling; it means creating connections, so it can really be done anywhere you are engaging in meaningful business conversations,” Wendi says.

“If you’re attending an event, set yourself a target of meeting three people of interest and arranging a catch-up over a coffee in the next week or so, where you can find out more about them and their area of expertise.

“This goal can also help you politely end a conversation at a networking event, too.”

What are the pitfalls?

While networking is the fastest, easiest way to connect with someone who may be able to help you meet your career goals, Julia says there are certain behaviours that may repel others.

To become a successful networker, she suggests you avoid doing the following:

  • Asking for a business card too soon as it can seem desperate.
  • Asking people what they do before you’ve created some rapport as it may make them feel judged.
  • Overworking the room, which may come across as being too pushy.

Written by Andrea Beattie.

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