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Just the word networking brings a cringeworthy expression to the face of so many. Why is that? Have we been so concentrated on forcing ourselves into what we think are the right set of professional behaviors that we forgot how to talk to each other?

Networking is, by definition, creating connections. You never know who you may meet at an event. Say you meet a high-powered HR director for a fortune 500 company you’ve been targeting and get their information. Or, let’s say you meet the new sales manager for a local business that’s trying new avenues to get their name out there and find out you both drafted Aaron Rodgers for your fantasy team (the guy racks up points.) The point is: you started a conversation and it took you somewhere.

Make Networking Less Painful

The first part of making networking less painful is learning to enjoy connecting with people (click here to share those positive words) , or at least accepting that fact that you’re in a situation where you have to be social for an hour. In the great words of Nike’s marketing campaigns: “Just do it.” But really, it’s more than that.

We have all been at that stuffy luncheon where you’re stuck at a table with no one you know, no one remotely in the same industry, let alone anyone born in the same decade and you have two choices. You can have the same “And what do you do?” conversation with each person at the table or you can talk about something less generic. I personally love to find out what people do in their spare time. It’s as simple as asking “What do you like to do when you’re not at work?” This question has led to some entertaining and informative conversations that have translated into business relationships.

Taking the time to have a genuine conversation at your networking events can take you farther than you anticipated. I find it best to go into an event with no expectations and a friendly demeanor. Being the “friendly girl from the website company” is something I will never mind being called. You may not delve into life-altering banter at your next chamber event, but you may make someone’s day just that much better. Staying positive and having genuine interactions may just change the way you look at your networking opportunities.

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