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neurodiversity and networking

How to navigate neurodiversity and networking

Walking into a room full of strangers that you are supposed to be interacting with can be incredibly daunting. Add on top of this anxiety around who you are and how you communicate and suddenly there is a recipe for potential problems. Welcome to neurodiversity and networking.

As a neurodivergent person, I have always found networking challenging as it seems everyone else knows exactly what they are doing. So here are some ideas to turn networking into something more manageable.

Being ready to talk

The best spontaneous conversations are well practised!

This may sound like a completely bizarre statement, but the truth is if you want to be spontaneous and have something to say you need to practice. This could be as simple as practising engaging with strangers in conversation or just being ready to start more conversations with your friends about topics that you think they may be interested in.

Asking questions that make connections

With networking the key thing is finding out what the other person wants, not telling them what you want. I would encourage you to start conversations by asking questions about how you can help. For example, you might want to ask:

  • why someone is there?
  • or what challenges they are experiencing that you could help with?

Telling real punchy stories

Think about your own stories, the things you have done, the people you have met and how they can be relevant to the people you are talking to now. No one can resist a story, especially when they help solve problems. When telling stories it’s important that they are punchy and to the point and that while you’re telling them you are seeking feedback to make sure they are relevant to the person you’re talking to, (if their eyes glaze over or their face changes, make sure you ask them if this is useful – if in doubt ask!)

For example, you might have a story about a recent client (you do not have to use the client’s name), or a problem that you solved as part of your work.

I would always recommend using stories as they illustrate not only the benefits and strengths that you can bring, but they also bring you alive as a person.

Being ok with who you are

Believe it or not, you are the very best person at being you, and there is no one else quite like you. Do not try and be someone else, be yourself, that’s why people want to get to know you. It is important to celebrate who you are as well in terms of your attitude towards yourself. I can assure you that you have value, things to offer, you do things other people cannot do and you are the very best at being you. – Be yourself!

It takes a village to successfully network

What I mean by this is that contacts you already have will provide you with information that allows you to connect with others. This will help you engage in conversations and communicate better with new connections. No person is an island, utilise people you know, learn from them, and ask for feedback.

Drive, the Partnership Network has been this place for me.

What can hold you back

Mindset is key, when getting involved in networking start with what you want to achieve then ask others what they want and see if there is space to build something. People never stop talking about what they need. If you can tap into that, you will network effectively because you will be able to help them find solutions for their problems.

Do not be the limit to your network.

Research shows that we love to talk to people like us. but unfortunately there is only a subset of the human population that are anything like us. If you are looking to network the chances are your skills and experience are going to be more useful to people that are nothing like you. Don’t be afraid because people are different – they still breathe and have a pulse just like you.

Having a goal

Having a goal is key. We network because we want to achieve something, so be clear about what you want to achieve. You then need to think about what, why, how, and when you are going to network and make sure that this fits with your other commitments.

Make time to network

Unfortunately, networking does not happen by magic, you need to make time for it and be consistent. Think about how much time you would like to spend networking and set that time aside and then see if it works for you.

Be proactive

You are not an impostor, you have every right to share what you are doing and mix with others to find common ground. You need to accept no one knows what you know the way you know it, and no one will ever know it unless you interact and have real conversations with them. Also do not be afraid to ask for help, there are a lot of people out there in a similar positions who want to help and see you succeed.

Find allies and champions

Allies and champions are vital especially if you have got questions like what is the value I bring?

These people will often know you best and can help you cement this value. They will also be the people that open doors for you and invite you to new places, and you will be able to support them. This is not an awkward thing to do, it just starts with a conversation.

So do not be afraid to ask!

If you would like some help with networking skills, please get in contact.