I have participated in several #NextChat sessions for #SHRM18. One of the frequent topics of discussions is networking. People are provided with all kinds of advice. Some of this includes:
- Bring business cards to help break the ice
- Don’t bring business cards, that will make you look outdated
- Talk to people at the lunch tables
- Talk to people in while you are waiting in line
- Talk to people sitting next to you in sessions
- Force yourself to get out of your comfort zone
- Make an effort to meet new people
and many other suggestions. These are all good suggestions, but in the reality of your network, they are of limited use according to author David Burkus, author of the book, Friend of a Friend.
According to Burkus most of us hate going to networking events, or to events where it is expected that you should network. He says there is limited value in just getting to know new people. Don’t get me wrong there is value in getting to know new people, as long as you stay in touch with them. So make sure you bring business cards and exchange them, but then make contact with these people after you have returned home from the conference. Try to keep in periodic touch with them, even if it just once a year. This is where they start to become more valuable to you.
Many of us think that our close friends, family, and close co-workers are out best network when we need something, especially a new opportunity. Burkus says that is a mistaken notion. The network that is of most value to us is that group of people on the fringe of our network. Former co-workers, people we know from committee work, or volunteer work, or those people we have met at conferences that we have stayed in touch with after the conference.
The fringe of your network is where you will find people who are aware of opportunities that your close contacts are not. Burkus gives numerous examples of companies that were started as the result of former co-workers joining back up after a breakup of the company where they had first met. I have taught certification classes for about 18 years and I always tell students to get to know each other and to stay in touch. The reason? I tell them that is likely to be where their next job will come from. And that has proven true many times.
So for you introverts who are fearful of the numbers of people you have to meet at #SHRM18, relax. Don’t worry about meeting thousands of people. Just make sure you meet some and then keep in touch with them.