Ah, networking. A word that instils joy in all of us. Doesn't it? Oh, apparently not. In fact the list of the words I've heard associated with networking includes...well, those we'd usually associate with tasks like taking the bins out, cleaning behind the fridge, and answering calls from mobile insurance salespeople halfway through a really tense bit of Breaking Bad.
So why do even those of us who claim to be outgoing, sociable types, view this networking business as such a chore? Partly, it's the name. "Networking". Just that name alone conjurs pictures of pin-striped suits, elevator pitches and glistening business cards. Like some watered down version of American Psycho.
But say to someone: "Hey, how about heading to this event where we can have a drink and a good chat with some interesting people who may potentially make our lives easier?"...and the reaction looks rather different. Because that's essentially what networking is.
At an event this week at The Courtauld Institute of Art, an alumna gave us her own views on the subject. Although very much a people-person, she confessed to finding the concept of networking a little daunting: "Usually I start by finding someone who looks quite awkward so I can save them - and that means I don't have to interrupt someone else's conversation." Another key tip was to take the pressure off yourself. You're never going to meet everyone in the room, so just focus on having a few really good conversations. As this article points out, "It’s better to have 5 people willing to help you out than it is to have 500 that simply know your name."