By Caroline Creedon
Structured Networking with Kacie Brignell
There are countless ways of networking and, whether you know it or not, you’re probably already doing it in some form or another every day. Whether we’re posting on social media, scrolling through LinkedIn, or attending networking events, nearly every outlet of our lives can be used to build your network.
With that being said, nothing is more effective in growing your network than having a bit of structure to back it up. This might sound a little daunting, networking can be intimidating if you have the wrong mindset, but I sat down with networking expert Kacie Brignell to find out how we can all bring a little structure to our networking tactics and make the whole thing feel a lot more effective and engaging.
To start us off, Kacie addressed (and busted) some of the most common myths people often think about networking.
The first one is that networking is only for extroverts, people with a ton of confidence. What is really interesting is that introverted people tend to be a little better at networking, generally speaking, because they actually take the time to listen to the people they’re meeting. Extroverts, on the other hand, can easily (albeit accidentally) take over a conversation or a room and focus less on making genuine connections.
So good news, if you consider yourself more of an introvert, you’re more than likely going to be great at networking once you find a structure and method that works for you without zapping your energy.
The second myth Kacie busted about networking is that it’s for the corporate world. People often mistake networking events or opportunities for a bunch of people in suits shaking hands and swapping business cards. This is a super common mindset, especially for people who are new to the business, but the truth is that nowadays people tend to just accept each other as they are, realizing that everyone’s out to play the same game.
Networking is far more about how you carry and present yourself than it is about what you wear or say. The key to networking is straight up just being yourself and feeling confident enough about your business and skillset to view it as a problem solver, not something to sell.
The third myth that’s completely false about networking is that you only need to network when you’re on the hunt for clients. Networking isn’t about making sales or getting new clients onboard here and now, it’s about expanding your network to make connections for all aspects of your business, from suppliers and contractors to referral partners and yes, potentially even clients on the road.
Nothing is more annoying than someone whose immediate instinct in a conversation is to try to sell you on something. Don’t be that someone. In other words, don’t approach networking with the mindset of making money. Think of it as a long-term investment in building your reputation, making connections, and developing new levels of confidence in yourself and your business.
So, how do you walk the fine line of wanting to get more clients without looking like you’re out there just looking for more clients?
At the end of the day, you have to trust that you’ll be in the right room at the right time. By growing your network and getting your name out there, the right clients will eventually come to you. It’s not just about your business, it’s about the contacts who can help you out along the way.
Here are two really simple tips directly from Kacie to help you approach networking with the right mindset:
- Don’t get caught up in the idea of “working the room.” Head into an event with the goal of simply meeting 3-5 new people and that’s it.
- Be prepared for the question, “So what do you do?” It doesn’t have to be a 60-second elevator pitch, but it does need to be something more than “I’m an accountant.” Take the time to prepare an answer that feels natural to you and that explains what you do as opposed to just stating your role. An example might be, instead of saying “I’m an accountant” you might try something like, “I help business owners manage their finances.”
At the end of the day, there’s nowhere near as much pressure in networking as you probably think there is. Shake it off, pep talks yourself in the mirror, and get out there. You never know where you might land your next lead.
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