Every moment is a learning opportunity, even the bad ones..
When I started as an entrepreneur I knew networking was crucial to success so without hesitation I joined my local Chamber of Commerce. The first event I attended was in the patio of a local eatery dressed with free food and drinks.
There were two types of people there: veteran members who stood on the sidelines talking to each and newbies like me introducing myself to anyone who wasn’t in conversation. Reciting an elevator pitch, handing out business cards and trying to sell myself was my approach. I remember it being quite loud there so 50 business cards later I left forgetting who was who and quite hoarse from the night’s interactions. After I got home, decompressed and evaluated the event I questioned the purpose of it.
A month later I figured maybe I just had a bad experience and went to the next event in an office space. Less food, quieter ambiance and more intimate. But the results were the same. As I introduced myself to members, I felt judged. Did I need to earn their respect immediately by telling a recent conquest? It seemed like it would take a while to penetrate the walls of folded arms, so I decided to leave.
I said to myself, “If this is what networking is, I don’t want to do it anymore!”
A few years later I was in a slow season of business and knew I had to drum up some new contacts, but didn’t know how. As someone who loves to organize events, I knew what components both needed to be present and absent for actual “connecting” to happen. I met with a friend and shared my vision for this new type of networking event and he encouraged me to try it…so I did.
Career Synergy was a 90-minute, monthly networking event hosted at a local coffee shop after hours on the first Tuesday of the month geared towards young professionals. How did I decide on these details? Surveys and market research.
What I wanted: speakers rich with life experiences they wanted to share, scheduled small groups times during the meeting and a dedicated informal “connecting” time after the event (not before).
What I didn’t want: loud music, free food/drinks and unstructured networking before the event.
How I measured success: 25 events total ranging from 10 – 45 people. 90% of attendees stayed 30 minutes after the events to mingle with each other. I made friends and partnered together in events to this day.
The shift for me happened when I stopped complaining about past examples and created my own solution.
Once networking became a lifestyle instead of an “event” the quality and quantity of my connections increased.
To this day I set a goal to connect with at least one person a week over the phone or in-person (that’s with a full-time job, plus email is too easy of an option).
Your career is more about who you know than what you know, but if you focus on improving bad experiences there might actually be a business idea waiting to be launched!
Bad examples will occur, but the question is: will it sour you or fuel you to change?