How to Network to Your Strengths

Networking has been weird in the last year or so, hasn’t it.

At a time when jobs in some media became more thin on the ground – so networking became even more important to freelancers in these industries.

It seems I’m a bit in the minority in that I don’t mind networking, per se, that much. Especially in an environment when it’s absolutely clear that’s what everyone’s there for.  So long as the rules of engagement are explicit or obvious, I’m good to go.

I wonder if it’s like that for you?

And yet online networking is SO MUCH easier for me than networking in-person, for a number of reasons, that all play to my introverted strengths.

  • I’m more ‘me’ in text than I am in person with another person I don’t yet know well.
  • I can re-read over an interaction, rather than having to both remember what’s been said and talk at the same time.
  • I can take my time to respond.
  • I can touchtype quite quickly.
  • There’s often an option to edit something you’ve already written.
  • I can do a quick bit of research right there on a person before responding to an initial contact to make sure I stay within a common frame of reference.

Imagine doing that last bullet point in-person.

However, if your strength is, in fact, working out that common frame of reference through the medium of witty repartee or simply that you thrive on meeting new people, then it’s likely that certain forms of online networking won’t suit you at all. When it comes to networking, as in all things, you do you.*

Other positives of online networking events for me include the experience of wearing bluetooth headphones for a webinar or session, which means I can leave the computer, go to make a cuppa midway, and still keep listening. A change of scenery, or even just getting up to have a walk around and a stretch gives me a little refreshing boost. Imagine doing a few trichonasanas and upward dogs at the conference foyer’s drinks reception.**

If I’m on a group zoom, I can mute my mic and turn off my camera, so I don’t have to worry about my expression, or maintaining eye contact, or the visual representations of  ‘I’m paying the correct amount of attention to you’. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes to reset my brain after it’s been a tad wearied by a long conversation, and my video is turned back on.

On the few occasions I’ve done them, I like a random breakout room, where I’ll speak to a much smaller group of people over Zoom for, say 10 minutes, especially when there’s a task. I do rather like a clear brief in all things, not just a music commission. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

I like that I don’t have to travel to and from a place (I don’t particular enjoy the process of travelling, though being in a new place can be of interest). I don’t have to sort and pay for accommodation. I don’t have to cancel any freelance work. I like that I can realistically attend a conference and work in the studio at the same time, or fit the work around the talks.

Discords, Slacks, and Zoom chats, when part of a networking event or conference, are where I thrive. I never thought that would be the case because I loathe Facebook groups (the site’s design is just SO CLUTTERED – it’s painful to look at, never mind how I feel about that particular company’s ethics). I feel far bolder, especially as I do rather enjoy rewording a sentence for tone, purpose, and audience, then trimming it to be concise and precise.

Conferences and events that span multiple days still wear me out, introverted as I am. As much as I put strategies in place to mitigate it, I can get a bit grumpy and tired after the second day.*** But the fact that even during these online events I can choose to take extended breaks for either some serious fresh air, a long walk amongst some familiar greenery, or even a lie-down in a cool, darkened, quiet room in a place that I literally feel most at home, is GOLD.

What are your strengths specifically when it comes to networking? Do you dread it merely because you’re forced to play by someone else’s rules and standards? If you could change the format to something more suited to you, how would that look? And how can you bring more of that into your life at a time when instigating those new work relationships through networking is (depending on your line of work) now possibly even more of an essential than before?

*I highly recommend Sarah Knight’s book of the same title.

**although if we as a species could normalise stretching out weary muscles in previously unwelcoming environments I think we’d all be a fair bit more physically and mentally healthy.

***copious amounts of dark chocolate does help.

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