By Dr. Ruth Gotian

Networking—just the word makes people want to run for the hills. It sounds transactional and slimy, even for the most extroverted professionals. The idea of approaching strangers, engaging in small talk, and forging connections can be overwhelming and depleting, especially for those who despise networking.

It is possible to successfully navigate the tumultuous networking landscape even if you despise the traditional approach. Learn strategies and insights to help you overcome networking aversion and build meaningful connections that align with your authentic self.

In his book, Endless Referrals, Bob Burg states that each person knows 250 people. That’s the average number of people attending a funeral, and each side invites to a wedding. With each person you meet, you can create a ripple effect. Here are six strategies for your consideration.

1. Embrace Your Introversion or Shyness

Networking is not just for extroverts. Quieter individuals have unique qualities that can make them superb networkers. Quiet leaders listen deeply, observe intently, and engage in meaningful one-on-one conversations. Leverage your introspective nature and ask thoughtful questions. This will help you develop genuine connections beyond mundane interactions that you wish to run away from.

2. Seek Quality Over Quantity

Do you feel under pressure to collect a stack of business cards or increase your LinkedIn follower count? Before you start talking to random people, focus on quality connections rather than simply gathering the names of random people. Look for people who align with your values, interests, or professional goals. You’ll build a robust support system that can provide valuable insights and opportunities by nurturing a few authentic relationships.

3. Leverage Online Networking Platforms

If face-to-face networking is not your thing, consider online networking. Social media platforms, Slack channels, and virtual events provide opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals from the comfort of your own home. Respond to posts, ask a question, share insights, and nurture relationships that suit your preferences. Take LinkedIn Learning courses and connect with the instructors. You will automatically see who is in their network. (Read my recent Forbes article on the LinkedIn Learning courses, which are unlocked and free until June 9th).

4. Leverage Existing Relationships

Networking doesn’t always require meeting strangers. It will help if you leverage your existing relationships with colleagues, friends, or mentors to expand your network. Attend events or gatherings with an outgoing buddy, and allow them to introduce you to their connections. You can be introduced to many people by simply being their wing person. This can offer a sense of familiarity and comfort while expanding your network.

5. Focus on Building Genuine Relationships

Networking should not be transactional. As shared by Adam Grant, those who succeed give more than they take. Approach networking with a mindset of building genuine relationships, not seeing what you can immediately get out of that person. Utilize your active listening skills to cultivate a genuine interest in others and their stories. Listen carefully, exhibit empathy, and seek to provide value to others without expecting anything in return. By nurturing authentic relationships, you’ll naturally create a network that supports and uplifts you when you least expect it but when you need it most.

6. Find Networking Opportunities That Align with Your Interests

If you don’t enjoy golfing or meet-ups at bars, then don’t go. There is no one way to network and build relationships. Seek out networking opportunities that align with your interests or passions. Attend conferences, workshops, or gatherings cantered around your hobbies, industry-specific topics, or causes you care about. When networking feels purposeful and aligned with your values, it becomes more enjoyable and authentic. For more, see my recent Forbes article about aligning your organizational culture with your values.

Networking doesn’t have to be something other people do, nor should you dread going to such an event. By embracing who you are, seeking quality connections, leveraging online platforms, utilizing existing relationships, building genuine relationships, and finding networking opportunities that align with your interests, you can redefine networking on your terms. Remember, networking is forging meaningful connections. For help kicking off the conversation, read my Forbes article on how to talk to strangers.

Feature Image Credit: getty

By Dr. Ruth Gotian

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I research the secrets to success found in extreme high achievers and help those who wish to improve unlock their own potential. I was named to the Thinkers50 Radar list (the Oscars of management thinking), and in 2021 won the Thinkers50 Radar Award, naming me the #1 emerging management thinker in the world. I published in such journals as Harvard Business Review, Psychology TodayNature, Scientific American, Academic Medicine, and co-edited a book on the systems and programs in medical education. I am the author of the award-winning book, The Success Factor, on extreme high achievers, including Nobel laureates, astronauts, and Olympic champions. I earned my doctorate at Teachers College Columbia University where I studied Adult Learning and Leadership, my B.S. and M.S. in Business Management from the University at Stony Brook, and certificates in Executive Leadership and Managing for Execution from Cornell University.

Read my other Forbes pieces here.

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