Networking Tips for the Socially Awkward
First off, I want to qualify this post by saying that I put myself squarely in the “socially awkward” category. For example, I bumped into a colleague in my office building this week, and he very kindly said “Hey, I saw your website, it looks great!” and I was like “Oh cool, yeah, it’s just this new thing I’m trying, we’ll see” as I’m awkwardly shrugging and backing away (you know, really confident body language). And then he very generously said “Great, I’ll definitely send people your way!” and I was like “Cool!” while awkwardly giving him the double thumbs up (what’s with the thumbs?!). So, as you can see, I’m speaking in this post as a comrade.
The good news is that over the years, I have gotten better than I used to be, and I’ve learned some things that have helped make face-to-face marketing situations feel a little less “cringey.” Hopefully they can help you too!
Here are my 5 top tips:
Instead of thinking about marketing as “selling yourself,” think about it as finding out more about others. It seems counter-intuitive to the idea of “selling yourself,” but marketing is really all about building relationships. Finding out about the other person builds a sense of trust and a sense of mutuality. No one likes feeling like they are being “pitched” to at a cocktail party. Asking people questions about what they do, listening attentively and asking good follow-up questions (oh wow, this is what you do for work, so you’re already good at it!) is a more successful approach than giving your elevator speech and then awkwardly backing away. Also, bonus, people will walk away with a sense of having a good experience of you because people generally feel good when they talk about themselves.
You will be more successful marketing yourself by giving something to others than by asking for things. Think about if/how you can be helpful to a colleague or organization. This can be just by offering advice/support/suggestion or even by more formally volunteering. Also, making referrals to other colleagues is a marketing opportunity. It’s a way for people to get to know you a little, and to keep yourself on people’s radars.
I heard this nugget on the Abundant Practice Podcast and found it incredibly helpful:
Remember, when people hear what you specialize in, 99.9% of the time they are not going to grill you on your credentials, they are just relieved to hear that someone else is doing it and that they have someone to refer to. This is especially true if it’s an area they don’t like, or aren’t interested in. They might ask more out of curiosity, but I have definitely found it to be true that no one has ever asked me to recite my CV.
Peer supervision is a form of marketing! If you’re a socially awkward human, then peer supervision is a good way to allow people to learn about who you are as a clinician week-by-week. Hopefully you feel more comfortable as you keep going. It’s a slower burn, but overall less anxiety-provoking and more effective than a quick 5-minute interaction at a conference or something. Also, bonus, most peer supervisions seem to involve wine and cheese, and I know you’re here for that.
As the wise sage Ma$e once said: “Breathe, stretch, shake, let it go”. Sound life advice for all things, really. I know I have been guilty of catastrophizing the one “off” interaction with a colleague. “I’m RUINED!!”, I’ll say to myself. But honestly, it doesn’t work that way. If something doesn’t go super well one time, it’s not the end of your career. If you are always planting seeds, if one doesn’t sprout, it doesn’t ruin the garden, ya know? Breathe, and just be yourself. I know that sounds trite, but it is true. We make connections by being human, being vulnerable, not knowing things and just doing the best we can. Oh, and try to have fun.
And now, speaking of fun, to end this post about being awkward, go ahead and have yourself an awkward dance party. Enjoy!