Why I Don’t “Network” and am Proud of It

Back when I was in graduate school, I was a MAJOR extrovert.  I could talk to anybody about anything.  Networking mixer?  I’m totally there!  I seem to have reduced my extreme extroverted tendencies as I grow older.  Therefore, these days I call myself “a situational extrovert.”  If I am going to an event where I am positive I’ll know at least 1-2 people in the room, I’m just fine.  If I’m going to an event where I don’t have that assurance, then I tend to just eat, drink, and look at my phone.  Horrid, right?

So I am not the person who looks forward to networking mixers and cocktail parties at conferences if I’m the New Person.  It’s not that I’m scared, because I can still talk to anyone about anything; but I’m less likely to start a conversation if I’m unsure what I’m going to talk about.  This is mostly because I DO NOT have a poker face – if I’m not interested, you are going to know this because all I do is nod and say, “wow, that’s really interesting.” (see this article on Networking)

When I transitioned from College Housing to Advancement, I began participating in professional organizations and conferences that were brand spanking new for me.  And in the beginning, I knew NO ONE.  And here’s what I did about it.

I latched on to my supervisor at any and all networking “things.”

That sounds a little needy, I know.  But she knew all the relevant people that I should meet and engage.  So I actually let her do the work for me.  When I felt like I’d made a good connection or that I really liked that person, I would ask to exchange cards…and THEN I would actually follow up and try to build the relationship.

why i don't network

From the get go, I submitted presentations and volunteered at non-networking events

When a professional association selects your presentation for a conference, this is a great way to meet other.  Volunteering gets you in contact with conference planning teams.  This led me to being selected twice to be on the Annual Conference Planning Committee.  I have made several good friends and MANY great connections through this connection.

I researched other programs/organizations and contacted folks to ask questions.

Everyone likes to be told that their program or product is excellent and then asked “how did you do it?”  When I learned about a program or procedure at a conference or from a webinar, etc., I would do my research and then reach out to the school.  I would seek out the correct person to ask questions of them.  This can also lead to building relationships and making connections.

So, see what I did there?  I sought out to build relationships rather than “only” networking.  And through these experiences I believe that I have learned more about my field and my colleagues then I would just milling around at the annual Wine and Cheese Party waiting for someone to park at The Table of the Situational Extrovert.

If you’d like to get a sense of where you stand on the Networking Continuum, check out my blog post on Strengths and learn how I found my top five talents in the workplace!

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