It’s like the universe just knows. What you put in your mind, you put into the universe and it creates reality. I honestly believe this, and it’s a powerful force when you are trying to network for business. Or flirt for a spouse. Or meet a new bff.
I’ve never been a giant fan of putting myself out there. I don’t like strangers. I like to stay in my little place and eat some snacks. Every time I sign up for an event, my head knows it’s good for me. My experience tells me that I’ll come away a better person. But my entire being rejects it. I have to put myself through my mental paces. Commit to it. And, as usual, when I do, the universe drops something pretty damn cool in my way.
I don’t think anyone can give you a crystal clear way of being that will automatically make you the superstar people person who everyone wants to work with. There is no joke that always gets a laugh, no outfit that will be suitable for every event, and no guarantee that any of the business cards you pick up will lead to anything more. In networking more than anything, it’s vital to be yourself. Because human shmooze-o-meters are dialed in and set to high alert.
Know What You Want
The first step in networking is way before you even meet anyone. Clearly state in your head what you want. Do you want to create leads on a new project? Find people with skills to help you in your venture? Become more educated about a specific company? All of this is decided before you even enter a networking or social event.
Designers don’t need designers. Designers need businesses who need designers.
Then you get to pick. Where are you going to go to find what you need? As a designer, I’ve been to a fair amount of meetups and group events where the only other people there were other designers. Usually that’s not a good call. It’s comfortable, for sure. You’re surrounded by people just like you and you can empathize with and understand each other. You can tell kerning jokes and (wha?!) they laugh. It’s great. But it rarely comes away stretching you or providing new opportunities.
Your creativity is more challenged when you’re in a group with a variety of people. Don’t ditch the other designers (or accountants or crafters or whoever your go-to group is), but try to include yourself in other groups as well.
Keep It Up!
After the event, respond to those business cards you picked up with phone calls or emails. Networking is useless if it isn’t used. Be yourself. And then watch. Because crazy things will happen. You’ll meet people through people through people. Each opportunity is another place and time to create more opportunities.