Cartoon by Iva Cheung
Written by Amber Riaz; copy edited by Katie Beaton
Like the character in the cartoon by Iva Cheung, I actively avoid meetings—especially those labelled as networking meetings. The thought of engaging in awkward conversations to try to seem likeable enough for people to trust me with their work usually makes me want to run and hide under the covers!
The Editors BC monthly meeting for March, “Abuzz with Networking,” hosted by Lynn Slobogian, however, went a long way toward alleviating that anxiety. Drawing heavily on her experience with public engagement through her work for numerous non-profit organizations (before launching her freelance editing career), Lynn introduced the concept of networking to a room full of self-proclaimed introverts/editors. Not only did she put everyone at ease within minutes of starting her presentation, she also found a way to make networking a fun and engaging activity. Lynn led us all through the why and how of networking before asking us to actually network with each other.
I learned numerous things from Lynn’s presentation, but the biggest takeaway for me that evening was the idea that networking is less about selling and more about connecting. As a natural introvert (like many editors), I have always baulked at the thought of attending a networking event. It’s mostly because I am always nervous about what I could possibly sell to a room full of strangers. Lynn’s suggestion—that networking is about starting a conversation—removed a major barrier for me and switched the way I was approaching the very concept of networking.
Lynn offered multiple tools to help us network. One of these was setting up realistic personal goals. Instead of encouraging us to try to meet as many new people as possible, Lynn suggested aiming to meet just one new person (or maybe two if we’re feeling adventurous!). She then suggested following a rhythm that would allow conversation to flow easily, beginning with greetings and a short introduction. A mistake I have always made at this stage is awkwardly saying something evasive or vague, such as “I am an editor” or “I work from home these days.” However, Lynn suggested preparing a few introductory sentences that are clear and concise and lead to more conversation. By focusing on this connection building while asking a question, contributing to a conversation, or finding something in common with the other person, we could easily remove the awkwardness from networking.
Another important tip Lynn offered was aimed at removing awkwardness during the (dreaded) exchange of business cards. She mentioned that we should ask for the other person’s business card first (if we’ve managed to build a rapport) or to offer ours first. This way, we can follow up after the event to continue building a relationship. In fact, Lynn suggested the follow-up—be it via email or a social media connection—becomes the key to successful networking.
Keeping realistic personal goals in mind, I started to think about why I wished to network. Instead of thinking of a networking event as a room full of strangers, I began to think of it as a way to meet a few interesting people (maybe one or two to start with) to have a nice conversation with. So, instead of thinking about the short-term (rather frightening) prospect of attending an event full of strangers, I have learned to think about the long-term goal: the desire to make new connections and build relationships.
A question I have been struggling with, however, is where to begin networking. Lynn suggested thinking outside the box by looking for events connected to things that genuinely interest us. Events that would generally be considered peripheral to our careers could still provide opportunities for us to find connections and build relationships that could eventually lead to work.
Lynn then led us through a structured networking activity where she put us all into multiple groups. We began with groups of two, and once conversation began to flow comfortably, Lynn broke up some groups and asked people to drift into pre-existing groups, turning groups of two into groups of three and then into groups of four. I realized then how easy and natural a good conversation can be if the focus is on connection building instead of on selling ourselves or our services. While sliding into a conversation is awkward at the best of times, this specific experience showed me that people can be (and usually are) kind and generous: they will quickly summarize the topic so the person joining in can catch up and offer something new to the conversation.
Lynn’s workshop demonstrated that networking can actually be fun—after all, if we are not there to sell anything, but to make friends instead, why would we want to miss that opportunity?
An avid reader, Amber Riaz loves working with words. She likes nothing better than to help authors convey their ideas to their audience in the best possible way. She works mainly with academic writers and has helped students with master’s degrees and PhDs prepare their theses and dissertations for final submission while also working on academic journal articles, memoirs, and fiction. Contact Amber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Beaton recently discovered her love of editing and decided to enrol in the Editing Certificate program at SFU. She hopes to one day work as a professional editor. Until then, she continues to pursue her other love: travel. When she’s not exploring the world, she can be found teaching yoga, writing, and enjoying every brunch spot Vancouver has to offer.