Advertising is such a social and highly collaborative industry that it’s practically a job requirement for you to competently navigate relationships among a wide variety of people through networking. But for some of us, making new friends — or at least making new connections or workplace allies — doesn’t always come easy.
As a lifelong introvert, I am more aware of this than practically anybody. What I’ve learned from my 10+ years in the biz is that making connections is a long-term process. If you’re also an introvert, it’s important to remember the benefits, and remind yourself that it’s worth the work that goes into networking — even if it’s just inside your office.
Why Workplace Networking is Important
1. It can make your life better.
Having friends, compadres, confidantes, or whatever else you’d like to call them, is essential to having a long and successful career. In an industry where there are a lot of late nights, working lunches, and missed vacations, having work friends can take the edge off and help you avoid burnout.
2. It can make your work better.
You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but developing a few key strategic alliances can make it easier to do your job. As a copywriter, I always make a point of trying to cultivate relationships with the senior account and strategy people for the brand that I work on. It makes my job easier, more fruitful, and less painful. When people know who you are and trust that you’re working toward the same goal they are, they’re more receptive to exploring boundary-pushing work.
3. It can make you better.
Friendly relationships can also reshape the dynamics of feedback and criticism. It softens the blow to hear criticism come from someone you perceive as a teammate (and conversely, they may be more sensitive about giving it if they’re friendly with the person on the receiving end). If you’re getting professional feedback from a colleague with whom you’ve forged a relationship, instead of listening with resentment and dismissing their words, you’ll hear suggestions for doing better work coming from a knowledgeable partner who has the best interests of the project in mind.
How You Can Improve Your Workplace Networking
It can feel like a fine line between making strategic connections and dressing up as an extrovert. Even if it doesn’t come naturally — and it won’t, at first — there are a few little things you can do every day that can make the process easier.
- Smile. When you’re in an overwhelming situation, it may be difficult to crack a smile, but smiling can help you be less stressed. You don’t have to smile at everybody, but do think about it like it’s a welcome mat.
- Speak up in meetings. It shows people who you are and invites the opportunity for conversation. Start small by making short statements or asking a simple question.
- Network outside your office, too. Read about how you can win your next networking event and add more connections who can help you achieve your professional goals.
- Challenge yourself. The objective isn’t to turn you into an extrovert; it’s just to make it easier and less forced when the right opportunities do present themselves.
- Give yourself the time and space to recuperate. Expanding your comfort zone is hard work. Introverts get their energy from within so after doing something particularly challenging, make sure you block time out for yourself.
- Pace yourself. There’s no need to get out there and do everything at once. Try one of the tips or all of them; the important part is to stay true to yourself.
Networking isn’t a “one and done” process
Any kind of relationship takes work and nurturing. You don’t acquire a new friend and then have that friend forever without doing some work. The same is true with business or workplace relationships.
You’ve probably heard that it can be more expensive for a business to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one. Now think about that in terms of maintaining your network. Keep nourishing your new connections by showing value, whether it’s lending a friendly ear, providing key information, or offering to make an introduction.
Lisa is a Creative Circle candidate and seasoned advertising copywriter who lives in Los Angeles. Her background includes both in-house and agency work on Fortune 500 and global accounts in the consumer and healthcare/pharmaceutical fields. She excels at words, fashion, and cats. If you want to work with Lisa, contact Creative Circle Los Angeles.