Suffering From Networking Burnout?

You're not alone, but you can overcome it.

Posted Feb 07, 2014

If you're suffering from networking burnout it's probably because it's something you need to do, but don't want to do. It may also seem that you're putting out a lot of effort for what you get in return.  Not liking doing something plus not being successful at it are a recipe for burnout.

Some tips to overcome it:

  1. "Be more interested than interesting." This is a quote from my mentor, leadership guru and "deep listener" Warren Bennis. He adds: "Boredom occurs when I fail to make the other person interesting." Another perk of doing this is that you don't have to "sell" yourself or feel uncomfortable needing something from the other person. To do even more than being interested, focus on what people are saying to be more present and then just listen. The sign that you have listened as deeply as you can is that people e-x-h-a-l-e and then smile, because you have made it all about them instead of you. But please, please, please don't then do a "bait and switch" by making a request of them. They will feel that they have just been had by someone they truly thought was interested in them. Wait for them to ask about you and even then be humble in your answer.

  2. Leverage excellence. When you meet people who seem intelligent and good at what they do, ask them, "Do you mind if I ask you an unusual question?" Hopefully they will be intrigued. Then ask, "If I were to ask your most satisfied client (or customer) what about you or your service or your product do they find excellent and not just very good, what would they say?" If the person asks you why you're asking them this question, reply with: "I feel it is my responsibility to my clients to make them aware of not just very good, but excellent resources they might want to use in the future. And so I'm collecting a list of people who are excellent at something to increase my value to my clients. And if I am able to make an introduction to these excellent people I know, that also often creates good will, because let's face it, the 'coin of the realm' in networking is giving great referrals and introductions."

  3. Introduce yourself to a wallflower. Nobody attends a networking event wanting to stay in a corner and be left alone. They're in that corner because the most technically skilled people are often socially shy. You never know when you'll meet the next Bill Gates.

  4. Try FTD delivery. I used to be a wallflower at networking events and still am a founding member of the "don't wanna go, but glad I went" contingency. I have discovered that when I get people to talk about something they feel, think and would do they feel known by me, because our thoughts, feelings and actions often define us. If you are uncomfortable with "f" word as in "feeling," you can work your way around that by talking about some topic (not religion or politics) where you bare your neck first by saying, "If I was in x's (maybe a coach of a losing NFL or NBA team) position, I would feel frustrated (ticked off, let down. etc.), what would you feel if you were in their place?"

  5. Follow through means never having to say you're sorry. Or that you just wasted your time at another networking event. When you meet people, write down something to follow up with on the back of their card when you are with them and then do it.

About the Author

Mark Goulston, M.D., the author of the book Just Listen, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute.

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