“Networking has got a really bad rap and I think it’s because we’ve all made it too much like hard work,” says Janine Garner, a Fortune 500 coach and founder of the LBD Group.
“Networking, as we know it, is going along to a function with a heap of strangers, drinking dodgy champagne, and eating crappy canapes – and we hate it,” she continues.
“We’ve become overwhelmed about where to start, how to go about it and which events to attend then you’ve got online, offline, Meetup, LinkedIn, Facebook – it’s just become so complicated.”
However, Garner – who recently penned bestseller ‘It’s Who You Know’ – says networking doesn’t have to follow the same tired model and HR professionals can make it work for them.
“We’ve got to totally debunk this myth of it being all about quantity and actually flip it to quality, we’ve got to remove the hard work out of networking and we’ve got to rewrite the rules,” she says.
According to Garner, networking doesn’t have to be about meeting as many people as possible or having the most connections on LinkedIn – it’s about finding the people who can help accelerate your career.
“For the introverts, turn up at an event and give yourself a limited amount of time and get out of there,” she advises. “If you make a goal of meeting one person that’s fine – it’s no longer about one hand for shaking and the other for handing out business cards. It’s about conversation, it’s about connection and it’s about building a relationship.”
Large-scale networking events can even be eschewed altogether if people find it daunting.
“For people who hate networking, follow your energy,” she says. “If you are naturally more introverted, what are you doing going to an event with thousands of people? You would be better having a coffee with four people who you want to get to know.”
Once professionals have identified the people they need in their close network, Garner says it’s much easier to maintain meaningful relationships without becoming overwhelmed.
“Find those core people and invest in them,” she tells HRD. “Whether it’s through regular hang-outs, having lunch, sending updates or arranging catch-up meetings – whatever works for you – but managing a smaller group is much easier than going to a room filled with people you don’t know.”
The four people you need in your network
Is networking important for HR?
If the thought of networking sends shivers up your spine, you may want to rethink how you do it and why – that’s the advice from one top business advisor who says even the most introverted HR professionals can get over their fear.