November 25, 2011
Networking events: They're not for everyone
Everywhere you look, you'll find networking events. In the Seattle area alone, you could spend every night of the week at mixers, meetups, job fairs, speed-networking seminars and all manner of relationship-building pow-wows taking place on both sides of the water.
But is attending networking events an indispensable part of modern job hunting? The answer is no.
While a great many individuals enjoy (and benefit from) large social gatherings, I truly believe there is a "silent majority" for whom these kinds of events are uncomfortable and anxiety-producing. Particularly difficult are those events of the pure networking variety, where the sole purpose seems to be for people to show up, with no real structure or agenda, hoping to spontaneously make friends and start influencing people.
If you've found yourself attending these kinds of functions and awkwardly standing against the wall, I've got a suggestion for you: Stop going. Instead, try going to "topical" events that relate to subjects that sincerely interest you -- on either a personal or professional level -- and where the agenda isn't entirely focused around schmoozing.
Perhaps you're into kayaking. Or politics. Or sustainability. Look around and you'll find a fascinating array of talks and presentations taking place around town on these niche topics, and hundreds of others, where the odds are you'll have a much more enjoyable experience.
The difference? For starters, you won't be sitting there (as I often do) needing to psych yourself up to talk with people or working hard to find common ground. Common ground will already exist, given that you share a passion with every other attendee.
Second, you'll be able to place your focus on enjoying yourself and learning new things, versus "keeping score" in terms of the number of people you meet or how many you trade business cards with.
Trust me on one other thing, too: You'll be less likely to beat yourself up when you're driving home, wishing you'd been more aggressive in your mingling efforts.
While the rise of networking-focused events is a great development, on the whole, just know that there's an alternative out there for those of us who lean toward the more introverted persuasion. A thousand terrific events focused around knowledge sharing take place every night. They might allow you to make some equally useful contacts -- and to be your more "authentic" self!
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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