Networking is fun and exciting. It’s so great to meet new people right?
Well… that is, unless you are battling other issues.
Yes, we’re talking depression. Depression sucks, but you can work through it. When you’re battling depression, your body and mind know that something is wrong, and you may want to do something about it, but the symptoms don’t really take note of how they impact your life. People who suffer from anxiety issues may also experience great stress over getting out there and meeting new people. The simple thought of it can make them sick.
When experiencing depression, people are likely to feel down, sad, hopeless or they may experience a loss of interest in things, including the things they once enjoyed. With such things happening, the thought of going out and being sociable seems anything but exciting. Not to mention the lack of energy you’re also likely experiencing.
If you’re suffering from anxiety, you may even find yourself too physically ill to get out. Yet while all this is going on inside of you, life continues to go on around you.
So what do you do? How do you meet the need to network to advance your budding (or burgeoning) business? You just need to put together the resources to help meet your needs:
Know Your Battery Life
Sometimes you may be able to get yourself out and about, but after awhile of putting on that smile, your battery starts to drain, and you begin to shut down again.
Your battery life is that amount of time you can be out and about. It’s how long you can “be on,” where your symptoms may still exist, but you can hold them back enough to get through. While you’re doing what you need to do to remove your symptoms, it helps to have a few tools to help you manage them until you fully get rid of them.
Take care of yourself. Eat right, eating whether you have an appetite or not. Get enough rest, even if you’re having difficulty sleeping. Take time out to rest your body. It may be that all you can do is meditation or a breathing exercise, but do something to replenish your energy sources. All of these things can help increase your battery life.
Set Your Networking Goal
What is it that you want to or hope to accomplish through your networking? This stuff sounds hard, so why are you putting yourself through it? When you know the benefits you’re seeking, they can be used as a source of motivation and empowerment to help you get there.
Before you go into an event, set a goal for that event. It can be meeting three doctors or getting your business card in the hands of four accountants. This way, when you walk in, you can focus on getting that done. You can allocate your time to ensure that this gets done before your battery drains. If you have time remaining, you can then decide to meet more people or give yourself a break and cut out earlier. Either way, you will have accomplished what you came out for.
Decide who you are looking to meet who can help you achieve these goals. This helps you eliminate the pressure of having to talk to everyone. Once you know who you’re looking for, then you can conserve your energy a bit instead of exerting too much in random conversation.
Be Strategic About Which Events You Attend
Happy hour at the new hottest spot in town may be nice if you’re feeling energetic and want to just hang out with whoever, but when you’re looking to meet with specific people, you need to get to a place that’s likely to have more of them.
If you’re looking to grow your pharmaceutical sales business, then you want to meet with doctors who are prescribing the medications you sell. That’s not to say that meeting a nice VP of sales at a local bank couldn’t be helpful; it’s just that you have a higher likelihood of success in increasing sales by meeting doctors. So instead of going to the general networking meeting hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce, you want to attend the event hosted by the medical association.
Generally, I wouldn’t refer to time spent getting to know any person as “a waste of your time.” However, when working within the limitations of your symptoms, I would call it mismanagement of your limited resources.
Take Advantage of Smaller Events
When there are fewer people to interact with, you’re able to be less all over the place and can focus on getting to know one or two people and making that connection. This doesn’t require you to go too far out of your comfort zone.
You can even initiate these types of encounters by reaching out to the people you want to meet. You can call, but in this case, the more probable option may be to reach out in writing through email or—even better—a mailed letter or note. You can send these to your desired contact and advise that you will be calling within a specified time frame. This commits you to making that call, but having sent that initial communication makes getting on the phone easier because you’re not making the ever-so-terrifying “cold call.”
When you become engaged in events and make commitments, you get yourself to the point where you have to get to the event. It’s more difficult to back out when others are depending on you.
Take on small but important tasks that will cause you to have to go once you’ve decided to attend an event. It could be something as simple as bringing the name badges or being a friend’s ride. As your battery life gets longer, you can take on more consuming tasks, but don’t overexert yourself at first, because you don’t want to make the experience so overwhelming that it gives you more reason to back out in the future.
When you don’t have much energy or desire or you’re just feeling down, you’re not really looking forward to going up and striking conversations with new people. The best thing you can do is make them come to you.
Have something unique that makes people want to know more so that they come talk to you. A friend of mine uses a cartoon sticker, which causes people to come up and ask what it’s all about. I write my organization name, “Living The Dream,” prominently on name tags, which makes people come up to ask me about it.
Your attraction piece can be something unique to you or that pulls at the interest of the people you want to meet. Just make sure it’s placed to be seen. This one works great for people who experience anxiety over meeting people or are just shy.
Make Information Available
Your business cards are a great way to do this. In addition to your name, title and contact information, they can say things about you that prompt people to ask questions. You can add things like specialties or accomplishments on the back—just three to five one-line bullet points that give people information about you and are great conversation boosters.
Follow Up First
You should always do follow-up to maintain that connection with the people you want to keep in your circle. When you follow up first, however, you can set the timing and pace of when the communications happen. You can set the tone and set things up for the best times for you.
When you decide to meet with people, schedule meetings at times that promote the speed you need. When you schedule to meet with someone after hours, they may be rushing home or they may be free as a bird and ready to hang out longer than you can.
Based on your battery life, you can make recommendations. A meeting at the office can last a few minutes or an hour depending on what the parties make of it. Meeting for coffee is shorter than meeting for lunch. Meeting for lunch is more time-limited than meeting for drinks afterwards.
When you’re preparing to go to a networking event or a meeting with a new contact, it’s also important to get primped up. Looking good promotes feeling good. So put care into your appearance—not so much for others, but for your own sake. Stick with ensembles that you feel good in.
Depression and anxiety can take a considerable amount of time to work through. Even when you’ve sought the help of a professional and are working your way out of it, you still have this life that you need to be a part of. So make use of the tools that are available to help you manage.
What advice do you have for networking with depression and anxiety? Share your tips in the comments!