How to lessen the awkwardness of networking events: Life Kit: “Be a croissant, not a bagel.”

Image one (

Photograph of table covered in a spread of cream cheese, butter, bagels, croissants on large paper plates. The image is photographed from overhead as three different people's hands reach into the frame. One hand grabs a croissant off of the plate, another sticks a knife into the butter and the third reaches for a plate.

) by Becky Harlan/NPR Becky Harlan/NPR provided the image in

Photograph of table covered in a spread of cream cheese, butter, bagels, croissants on large paper plates. The image is photographed from overhead as three different people's hands reach into the frame. One hand grabs a croissant off of the plate, another sticks a knife into the butter and the third reaches for a plate.

. I attended a professional conference in person for the first time since the outbreak this past summer. I was eager to meet new people in my area of journalism, mingle with the smartest individuals, and exchange advice with other reporters because I’m an extrovert.

But as soon as I entered a room filled with bagels, I started to lose my self-assurance.

The small groups of people who congregate in seemingly impenetrable circles at networking events and appear to already know each other and not want to let strangers in are what networking expert Robbie Samuels refers to as.

That’s what I find so daunting about networking. It doesn’t have to be this way, according to Samuels, the author of the book Croissants Versus Bagels: Strategic, Effective and Inclusive Networking at Conferences . People would understand that networking is about being generous with our professional knowledge and assisting each other in advancing our careers, he claims, if we all adopted a more croissant-like mindset, that is, a spirit of openness, like the shape of the pastry.

So even if I could have gotten lost among the bagels at my career event, I should still portray an attitude of openness to other businesspeople. To be the croissant and welcome others into your space, he advises, “ask yourself what you can do.”

Samuels offers Life Kit advice on breakfast foods as well as how to help people in your network, make networking less unpleasant, and create connections anywhere—even in the DMV wait.

Small List, Big Results and Croissants Versus Bagels: Strategic, Effective, and Inclusive Networking at Conferences are written by networking guru Robbie Samuels. Cirker-Stark, Leah remove caption

switch to caption Cirker-Stark, Leah LOOK FOR CREATIVE WAYS TO CONNECT It’s a typical networking conundrum. You want the individuals in your network to keep your name in mind and be there for you in times of need. But you don’t want to only contact them when you need a favor or worse, barrage them with questions about their professional lives.

What do you then?

Find ways to help others and those in your network first. This includes contributing to a mentor’s webinar, promoting a coworker’s new initiative on social media, and helping a former coworker’s charity drive.

He says, “If I’m perceived as a giver, then hopefully others would want to give to me as well.

And make an effort to vary your interactions so that they aren’t all work-related. For instance, Samuels enjoys gathering postal addresses so he can send birthday cards to his close friends. These small details, he says, “don’t require a lot of effort, but they can make you stand out.”

CPR KIT PRESENT YOUR VALUE TO YOUR NETWORK Samuels considers how he might contribute to the conversation or be of service to others before he enters a networking event. According to him, if people in your network think highly of you, they may be more likely to approach you about opportunities or introduce you to people in their network.

Samuels claims that he operates “with a mentality of plenty and gives away knowledge when I can” because of this.

No matter where you are in your career, he continues, this counsel still holds true. For instance, if you’re just getting started, volunteer to take meeting notes or share an excellent productivity software with your team.

Also, keep in mind your own interests. On your Zoom conversation, if someone mentions a movie you adored or has the same houseplant as you, feel free to bring it up. That also counts as networking. According to Samuels, shared interests might create a space for forging a more solid relationship with a shaky business link.

BUSINESS BEFORE a networking event, make a plan of action. We attend conferences, trade shows, and job fairs with the hopes of making genuine, valuable contacts. But how can we tell if these activities are worthwhile?

It will be more successful if you have a plan in place before the event, according to Samuels. Never forget that networking isn’t about getting the most business cards or talking to the most people. It involves concentrating your efforts on the appropriate communities and dialogues.

So consider your objectives and develop a strategy that will achieve them. For instance, are you trying to get a new job? Talk to hiring managers primarily. Are you stuck in a job slump and in need of motivation? Ask others in your field that you admire to join you in generating fresh ideas.

Then, when you establish a crucial connection, be sure to immediately follow up. Nothing will result from a single meeting. According to Samuels, “repeated exposure is what will develop a bond.”

DO NOT FORGET THAT NETWORKING CAN TAKE PLACE ANYWHERE. Don’t forget to search for like-minded people outside of your typical social and professional circles, advises Samuels. You’ll miss opportunities when they’re right in front of you if you continually wear blinders.

The secret, according to him, is to be aware of the kind of professional connection you’re seeking before going into an environment where you can run into a lot of unfamiliar faces. That may be waiting in line at the DMV, going to happy hour, or even your cousin’s bat mitzvah.

You’ll start to find them in situations you wouldn’t expect if you have a clear idea of the kinds of people and connections you’re looking for, he claims. You’ll be astonished by how frequently serendipity and luck come your way.

Sylvie Douglis produced this episode’s audio part. Malaka Gharib altered the digital narrative. Please get in touch with us. Call 202-216-9823 and leave a message for us, or send us an email at.

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