October 2, 2015

Networking on the Square: How the Right Accessory Can Help You Be a Better Networker

SquareI’m always looking to add to my bag of networking tricks. I’m not a shy person, but networking does’t come easy to me, especially at larger events. I’m an introvert; I’ve never been comfortable in crowds, and the bigger the crowd, the more uncomfortable I become. I admire people with the guts and grace to work a room without offending or alienating everyone in their wake, but have long since come to grips with the fact that I’m not one of those people.

That being said, I’ve learned a thing or two over the years to help give me the confidence to step through the doorway and wade into a gathering of people. Often, the best approach is to bring a colleague along. Being in the company of someone familiar is the easiest way to tackle trepidation. Also, being engaged in conversation attracts others who want to join in. If you bring a colleague, you can be the one starting conversations that draw others to your side.

More often than not, however, I find myself flying solo. When I’m in a situation where I need a substitute for a good friend or colleague, I have a new way to build my confidence: the pocket square!

My friend Marvin Venay hipped me to the idea after I asked him to show me how to tie a bowtie. I eschew neckwear as it is, and the trouble involved in getting a bowtie just right is more than I care to take on, so he suggested the pocket square as a simpler alternative.

Despite my tendency toward simple, conservative styles when it comes to professional attire, I knew I had to have one. Conveniently, Marvin happens to make custom pocket squares through his Etsy shop, and so he stitched one up for me: a square in two diagonal halves, one of solid green and the other with a splash of complementary colors that is tastefully eye-catching.

squareThat piece of fabric has been my constant networking companion ever since — and there’s no arguing with the results.

Not long after adding the pocket square to my arsenal, I attended a breakfast event with some colleagues who took no small amount of joy in teasing me about it. As we made our way from our plates of sausage and eggs to the morning’s presentation, we got in an elevator. As soon as the door to our car closed, a woman who had also gotten on the elevator said, “That’s a really nice pocket square.”

In fact, it’s a rare occasion when I’m wearing my Venay Square that someone doesn’t approach me to strike up a conversation and pay me a compliment. I can’t tell you whether it’s the square alone or the change in attitude that comes from knowing that I’ve got a patch of panache peeking from my pocket, but wearing the square has definitely given me a networking boost. Tucking that square in my pocket may seem like a gimmick, but it’s a tasteful one, and it has provided me with a much-needed dose of self-confidence.

Is a nifty, custom pocket square your ticket to social success? Maybe, or maybe your networking talisman will be something else. Whatever the case, if you find your confidence flagging, try changing something about your approach. Mixing things up might be just the thing you need to take your networking game to the next level.

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Mike Spinney is a writer based in New England. He has written for Inc., Cigar Aficionado, Robb Report, Federal Computer Week, On the Water, and many other publications. These days he plies his craft for high-tech public relations firm CHEN PR. Previously, Mike was a contributing editor for distributed journalism firm FitchInk and managing editor of the IAPP Privacy Advisor. Mike is an avid fly fisherman and serves on the board of directors for the fisheries conservation group Stripers Forever. Follow Mike on Twitter: @spinzo