Honestly, I sometimes think that if I could avoid going to business lunches and networking events, I would. I don’t particularly enjoy conversing with strangers when the underlying pretense is testing the quid pro quo waters. Still, the reality of today’s professional world is that opportunities are more likely to come to those who know people.
So, how do you get to know people in a professional setting when you have moved to a new city, feel uncomfortable in social situations, don’t like asking people for favors, or all of the above? If you’re like me, I have struggled to find solutions for each of these limitations and continue to experience mild levels of anxiety when I’m invited to any sort of “meet and greet” event.
I like to think that there are ways for me to form positive connections with people in my industry without compromising my personal sense of pride and self-worth. One way that I have eased the process of post-graduate networking is by becoming a part of my alma mater’s local alumni association. I already have an educational institution in common with these people and somehow it feels easier to interact with others who have walked on the same ground as I have. I also keep in contact with past colleagues whose work ethic I have emulated.
Ultimately, showing the people on my minimal but meaningful list of professional contacts that I care about how they are doing rather than what they can do for me has been one of the most effective and humbling ways to navigate a world that seems driven more by who you know rather than by who you are.