Business Networking: What To Do If Networking Scares You

Man_ghost_boo

If you are new to networking or if the thought
of entering a room full of strangers all by yourself is nothing short of
terrifying, then use something you learned back in grade school: 

The Buddy System.

You remember — line up in pairs and don't lose track of your "buddy."  Only this time, you get to choose exactly who you will "buddy-up" with.  (No more getting stuck with the kid who picks his nose and then tries to deposit his "goods" on your shirt — yeah, you know who you are!)

Just for fun, (because networking stuff CAN be fun), I looked up "buddy system" on Wikipedia.

"The buddy system is a procedure in which
two people, the buddies, operate together as a single unit so that they are
able to monitor and help each other. In adventurous or dangerous activities,
where the buddies are often equals, the main benefit of the system is improved
safety: each may be able to prevent the other becoming a casualty or rescue the
other in a crisis. When this system is used as part of training . . . the less experienced buddy learns
more quickly from close and frequent contact with the experienced buddy than
when operating alone."

For some, networking can be viewed as "an adventurous or dangerous" activity and they may require "rescue in a crisis" so this explanation seems to really ring true.

Nobody said that you have to network on your own.  In fact, isn't it more in line with what networking is all about — to help each other out?

So, how do we apply the Buddy System to networking?  Simple.  Choose a friend or colleague who actually likes networking and is good at it. (or at least has one of the two down — liking or doing) Ask them if you could "tag along" and learn from them as they do their thing.

One caveat here, though.  You aren't going to be a silent partner in this activity.  You will be an active participant by introducing yourself, telling people about what you do, asking good questions and remembering the names of those you meet. So, prepare yourself before you go.

The purpose of going with a buddy is to alleviate some of the stress and awkwardness that comes from being "all on your own."  Your buddy can ease the way by introducing you to her contacts and to those she meets at the event.  And, by seeing how it's done, you'll be able to do the same for her in the future!

Use the buddy system to overcome some of your fear of networking and you'll find that networking isn't so scary after all!

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  1. Good advice on how to get started with networking but the goal needs to be going it alone so that you can focus on the other people there, not your friend.

    • Beth — I think networking with others (aka, a buddy) is fine as long as you are truly making connections and developing relationships and not exclusively talking with each other only. The very nature of networking involves others, so you don’t ever really “go it alone.”

  2. I don’t network at all, just attend the odd business event when time allows.

    • Sonya,

      Networking can take many different forms — from the usual lunches and chamber events to online forums and groups. Establishing relationships with clients/customers, prospects, referral partners and other business professionals is essential to growing a successful business.

      PS — Hope to see you at Social Selling!

  3. This is a great idea as long as you participate and engage in conversation. Both “buddies” can learn from each other as well and also become more confident on their own after seeing how easy it can be.

    • Mike — you’re exactly right that both need to participate in the networking process. The key to the buddy system is that you are there for support, not as a crutch or a clique. It’s a great way to practice introducing someone else and teaching others about what you do.

  4. Networking doesnt scare me as much as exhaust me. Im outgoing but it takes focus and energy to move around, create meaningful conversation with several people. Didnt find it helpful after 2 years with 1 group so I stopped going.

    • As an introvert, networking can be exhausting for me as well. And, you’re right. It DOES take focus and energy.

      One of the most important parts of effective networking is to find the right groups and places to network so that you are productive. Sometimes that’s a leads group. Sometimes it’s a chamber of commerce. And, other times it can mean a more customized approach of one-on-ones or conferences. Find a fit for you and your biz and networking will pay you dividends for years to come.

  5. LOVE your analogy! How accurate, too! Networking is definitely one of those things that once you start, the fear fades. Fake it til you make it, right?!

  6. It’s great to have someone that is already part of the networking event, someone who invited you who can show you around or introduce you… or if you are both new, walk around together. What’s the worse that could happen? Not much in this scenario!

    • Kristen — Yes, it’s great when someone from the event or someone familiar with the organization can be your “buddy” and introduce you around. It just makes the conversation flow so much easier.

  7. Great advice if you are new to networking. Thank you.

  8. Buddy system is a good one. To add to the caveat you mentioned — be sure you don’t talk only with your buddy!