I hate networking. It’s awkward. Small talk? Ugh. I’ll just be hanging by the food and/or drinks thanks. At least there our awkward small talk is about wine or food.

I’ve spent much of my adult life afraid of the possible rejection, which means I’ve also spent much of my adult life missing out on potential connections. What I failed to realize is there are many others in that same place. Most people welcome the opportunity to meet and talk to someone new, even if only for the time frame of a meal or a drink. Actual rejection will only happen a handful of times, and the rejection scenario that lives in your head? Hasn’t happened since junior high.

Social media has opened a new realm for networking, allowing you to meet people in the comfort of your office, developing relationships through Twitter chats, LinkedIn groups. Eventually though you need to figure out how to do that IRL (in real life).

I had the opportunity to attend #SHRM16 last year. I had built up a community of HR pros through Twitter and Facebook and decided that I needed to step out of my comfort zone & actually meet some of those folks. I challenged myself to meet at least 10 new people each day I was there. I didn’t need to make life long friends, just a challenge to keep me from heading back to my room right away each day.  I joined a Facebook group and met a group of people for brunch Sunday morning. I ended up meeting 4 like minded women whom I hung out with most of the conference.

 I continued to meet or simply greet people I saw. I sought out many of my #nextchat friends and it was fantastic to know we could be as interactive in real life as we are online.

This was a huge step outside my comfort zone but it has got me stepping out like never before. I never would have attempted to lead a gathering like DisruptHR or stepped up to the leader tract of BAHRA. I’m writing about HR stuff [even tho I sometimes feel like a raindrop in a thunderstorm]. At a vendor event, I was able to confidently make contacts of other users.

I still don’t *like* networking and it takes a lot of my energy. I’m not going to be the one out for all hours as I need to get some sleep but I’m always up for a couple of glasses of wine (especially with a #nextchat friend who notices I happen to be in his town – Carlos!) But it’s never as bad as I think it’s going to be.


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