In today’s business culture, networking online and in-person can feel so, so forced. We all know the feeling – you arrive at an event, get a cup of coffee, and then stand around awkwardly in hopes someone comes up to introduce themselves (or you see someone else standing awkwardly that you can go up to and introduce yourself.) Networking favors the extroverted, which can mean that those who are on the quieter side aren’t given the same opportunities, and don’t reach the same level of success.
To help you find a path forward, we’re taking a deep dive into Networking in a 3-part series. In Part 1, we laid out a framework to understand how we developed the culture around professional networking we have today. In this post, we'll take a look at the different approaches to networking and how to leverage them to your benefit. Let's dive in!
To start, what types of networking can we choose from in today's work culture?
When it comes to networking, we can primarily choose from two types: Traditional in-person and online.
- In traditional networking, we attend in-person events like mixers and conferences in order to find and connect with people. In most cases, we make a conscious choice to choose events where we're likely to meet individuals who work in a specific discipline or specialty so we can find clients or collaborators. We especially tend to do so when we believe that meeting those individuals will increase our own odds of financial success.
- With online networking, things work a little differently! Online networking can be experience-based, sharing content and ideas for the sake of an outlet to do so. It can also be purely connection-driven, making an effort to find and network with potential clients or business leads. Either way, online networking is quite different than traditional networking in that you're typically casting a very wide net. By networking online, you're able to find and connect with people in different cities, regions, or even countries in most cases. If you work hard enough or use specific tools (like Ticco!) you can find people who meet specific criteria you're looking for, but often online networking leads to broader, general business outreach. For that reason, it may not result in as many direct relationships or business leads.
How are these approaches to networking different than what we've done in the past?
It's fairly obvious how online networking differs from the ways we used to network. However, the evolution of in-person networking is more subtle. Primarily, in-person networking has evolved in terms of audience and format.
- Audience: Traditionally, in-person networking opportunities were limited to wealthy, male, and/or white audiences. Only in recent decades has this drastically changed. Women entering the workplace and becoming a more prominent force in business in the mid-to-late 20th century first changed this dynamic, and now conferences and society gatherings have shifted immensely to cater to a more diverse audience overall. As many retire and large generations enter the workforce, the audience at in-person networking events is becoming unavoidably younger. Even further, groups that are making an effort to cater to diverse audiences are more likely to appeal to younger participants.
- Format: Today's in-person networking events diverge from stereotypical formal dinners, charity benefits, and lecture-based conferences. They definitely still exist! However, today there are more options to choose from. In-person networking events like Ticco Retreats offer a fun, hands-on way to connect with fellow practitioners that center around experiences. Learn more about retreats and how they're different than what you're used to here!
Why network at all?
It's oh, so tempting to just say 'screw it' and ditch networking altogether! The practice favors the extroverted, promotes the idea of cliques and societies that can be exclusionary, and rewards those who already have resources at their disposal. However, in walking away from networking on principal, you may be hurting yourself more than you realize. When you say 'no' to networking, you're saying no to opportunities you're unaware of. The essential concept of the practice is to surround yourself with a network of individuals who are aware of the value you bring to the table, and can call upon you when your services could be useful. If you don't build that network, you may decrease your odds of landing freelance work, getting a job, or your company being hired to work on a project.
If you are going to network, take steps to get the greatest return on the time you invest! In our final post in this series, we'll be diving deep into how you can build a meaningful network that actually pays off in the long run. Keep an eye out for Part 3 coming soon!