Networking, blech. How I took the ick factor out of networking and found a way to network that works for this introvert.
I grew up in the 90’s, in the era of AOL chat rooms and answering the question: A/S/L?
You didn’t tell people your full name and you didn’t tell people where you lived. And the number one rule? Don’t meet up with someone you met on the internet. We all know how that Degrassi episode ended…
Oh how things have changed.
I make new friends on the internet. It sounds BIZARRE, but stick with me here. Instagram and blogging are THE way to network for introverted, millennials like me.
So how do you make new friends on the internet, and why should you even bother in the first place? Well, read on, my friend.
Let’s talk about networking
I’ve always had a super negative view of networking. Until recently, that is. I thought it was this slimy, icky thing that only greedy, money obsessed people pushing their way to the top did.
Lately I’ve been able to see the positive side of networking. Because the truth is, it doesn’t have to be this icky, slimy thing.
▶︎ Why networking matters.
I didn’t see the point of networking until it got me job opportunities. The old saying holds true: it’s all about who you know.
Being connected with cool people doing cool things in your industry is good for a few reasons:
- these cool people will reach out to YOU about job opportunities.
- these cool people will post cool job opportunities on Facebook, instagram, etc.
- you won’t feel weird messaging them about said cool opportunity.
- these cool people will actually read your resume because you’re a familiar name.
This is how I got my internship — I was friendly with my now manager from the blog world. She posted about looking for an intern on Facebook. I jumped on it like white on rice and texted her. BAM, I have a grad school internship.
▶︎ What networking is not:
Using people. Don’t be an asshole. I repeat: DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE!
Someone I grew up with reached out to me recently. He was starting a business in the wellness space. I thought he wanted to talk about the wellness industry, but all he wanted was to poach my contacts.
I wasn’t close friends with him. Yeah, we went to the same high school but never had a solid friendship. Nor did we keep in touch. But now he “needed something from me” and knew I was in the fitness industry.
Not cool. Don’t be an asshole and use people for your benefit.
Instead, be genuine
▶︎ But traditional networking wasn’t my jam.
The thought of going to a networking event is enough to make me break out in hives. Hi, I’m a super awkward introvert. Approaching strangers is TERRIFYING to me.
So, I had to find a method to networking that works for me.
So, I started making friends on the internet.
I never intentionally set out to do this. But it started happening.
One day, I get an email from this chick. Leslie found me on instagram and reached out because she recognized the roof I took a photo on. Turns out she grew up in the building, and it’s the building where my parents now live.
She was beginning to transition to a career in wellness.
And Leslie is one of the many people I’ve met thanks to social media. People I genuinely have bonded with and now have monthly dinner dates with. They have become my collaborators, my sounding board, my support system. and ultimately my network.
How to make friends on the internet… in a not creepy way.
▶︎ Be genuine in your pursuit.
Networking is not what can you do for me. What’s worked for me is fostering a real relationship first. Then when the time comes that someone can be beneficial to me, it’s easy to reach out. Or they naturally reach out to me.
You don’t have to be BFF’s with everyone you grab coffee with, but don’t grab coffee with someone and expect them to give you their rolodex of contacts.
▶︎ Use instagram or blogs to find your peeps.
In my line of work [fitness, wellness and social media] instagram is where it’s at.
There’s a few ways to find your tribe on instagram — hashtags, seeing who tagged places you love, noticing who comments on your photos and interacts with you.
Start to interactive with people’s content in a genuine way on instagram. They’ll start to recognize you and remember you. And then you gotta be bold and cold message them. It sounds creepy, but I swear it’s not.
For me it’s usually meeting up with someone for a fitness class, coffee, juice.
The worst that could happen is they say no or don’t respond.
▶︎ I’m not crazy about the whole “let me pick your brain” thing.
I don’t use networking for that. There’s google and blogs and podcasts and facebook groups. If I get coffee with someone I admire, I usually end up picking their brain indirectly anyway.
Instead I’m focused on fostering real relationships. No, not everyone is going to change my life. I lucked out with meeting Leslie that it arguably did 😜. But at the very least you’ll come away with interesting conversation and maybe a new idea or two.
✨ YOUR TURN ✨
Go forth and find your tribe on instagram.
- Look through hashtags that relate to what you do
- Comment on people’s photos in a GENUINE way.
- Be bold and direct message them or email them once you establish the connection
- Meet up seeking nothing more than interesting conversation.
- Make a new friend. Or business bestie. Or who knows.