Science tells us that the reason we find networking events so daunting is because we are programmed this way.
As we mentioned in How To Navigate Awkward Networking Events a group of unknowns in the wild was a potential threat to our lives in our cavewoman days.
But is there more we can learn from science when it comes to mastering the wild world of networking?
After all, most of us have been at events with the proud peacocks, only there to show off their feathers.
Or the seagulls looking over our shoulder for next best chip.
Or maybe we’ve just been out to coffee with too many gallahs?
Whatever our past experiences, we think there may just be some lessons we can learn from the animal kingdom when it comes to authentic networking...
TOP 5 WAYS TO SURVIVE THE NETWORKING JUNGLE
1. Put the tribe first
Whales won’t leave a sick member of the pod, bee’s will sacrifice themselves for the colony and wolves bring back food from a hunt to feed the rest of the pack.
Rather than trying to get across your agenda and ‘selling yourself’ when you meet someone new, try to find out what you can do to be helpful to them.
What are their needs and drivers?
If you come at each new interaction with the attitude that you have something of value to offer every person you meet – you will invariably find you do.
After all, it’s thinking first about what you can do for others, that will set you apart from the pack.
2. Think outside your natural habitat
Some species of fish can survive for hours out of water.
Some of the most impressive people we have met have told us that their single biggest professional regret was neglecting their external networks on their climb to the top.
If you ever wonder how people with highly impressive CV’s find they can’t get another role after losing theirs, it’s often because they spent too much time and energy with colleagues or worse only networking ‘up’.
Focusing internally also not only limits your opportunities for advancement, it leads to smaller thinking in your current job, which is bad for everyone. And it might just come back to bite you.
3. Monkey in the Middle
If spider monkey’s are kept alone in captivity, they actually die of loneliness. (Sad face)
Bringing together groups of like-minded people and forming groups of your own is a powerful and long-lasting form of networking. Taking that one step further and connecting other people or groups with no agenda can start something amazing.
When you meet a new person, or a new group of people, try to think of someone else that you can introduce them to. If their collaboration turns out to be a fruitful one, they will forever remember you as the person that bought them together.
That makes for happy monkeys everywhere.
4. Getting strategic can make it look easy…
When migratory birds fly in a V formation, each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, increasing the aerodynamics of the flock. Each birds takes turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. From below it looks graceful and effortless, but it’s anything but
By bringing some organisation to your approach to a networking event – you can make it look effortless.
Do your research on the people who are going to be attending (a little LinkedIn stalking can be a beautiful thing). Call the organiser and get the list of who is coming. Decide on three key people you would like to meet and learn all about them and what the companies they work for are up to.
If you can’t get your hands on the attendee list, check out the speakers. What else have they done recently and how does it relate to what they are they are speaking about? If you go in armed with a plan, you’ll be more confident, have more to say and have some meaningful, memorable conversations. After all, isn’t that the point?
5. It’s a jungle out there…
But you should be having fun!
Strategies and planning are fine, but at the end of the day these are essentially social activities.
If you find a particular event or approach to networking exhausting – change it up – until you find a way that works for you. Whether it’s less big events and more 1-1 coffee’s or the reverse, making good professional connections should make your life easier, not harder.
So rather than going against nature, why not try to harness the rules of the animal kingdom in your approach to networking. It may just help you build long lasting, meaningful professional relationships.