I have to admit, I’ve never LOVED to network. I used to find the whole thing a little outside of my comfort zone, in fact. Maybe because I’m an introvert. Maybe because I’m not great at sharing my achievements with others. I’d much prefer to do the listening.
Having made networking a conscious part of my life over the past few years though, has had me see it in a brand new light.
The benefits of getting out there and telling your story to a random stranger, far outweigh the discomfort, and doing so has taught me skills I once thought I could never acquire. “I’m not that type of person”, I would say.
So here are 6 ways to overcome your fear of networking, getting through without the unnecessary stress. You might feel like you’re just getting by the first few times, but wait. You’ll see a vast improvement soon.
- Preparation is Key.
- Be 100% There.
- Watch Your Body Language.
- Bring a Buddy.
- Start Small.
- Be Yourself.
Networking is a learnt skill. So it’s ok to study and practice like you would before an interview.
This is the perfect time to figure out what your elevator pitch is. What do you stand for? What’s your overarching belief about your industry? Is there anything that you want to change about how things are done in your line of work? Also think about what you’re passionate about. And what you want to achieve within your career.
People love talking about themselves too, and a great way to build rapport is to show a genuine interest in others. So arm yourself with a list of questions you’d like answered by people you know will be there who inspire you.
One of my pet hates about networking events is that some people act like they’re about to end the conversation with you any second and find someone new to talk to. Looking around the room, you’ll often see people glancing away from the person they’re standing with, and I think that sucks!
Make sure you don’t make the people you talk to, feel that way. Engage in a conversation, fully. Be present to what the person is talking about. Don’t cut in with unrelated questions, because you’ve been so caught up in preparing the next question that you hadn’t even listened to what they were saying.
When you feel your mind or your gaze wandering, gently bring yourself back to who is in front of you, and treat them in a way that you would wish to be treated. Practice being curiously engaged in each word that they say. It will make you a much better listener, and people are attracted to that.
All the old rules that your mother used to tell you, stand in networking circles.
Don’t cross your arms, or else you will come off as unapproachable. Turn your body towards the person that you are talking to, so that they don’t feel like you are trying to escape the conversation. It’s rude to be fumbling around with your phone whilst someone is talking to you.
Sounds obvious, but needs to be said.
And, smile! People will more likely want to talk to you if you portray a happy disposition. You’ll also have a better time if you smile, because believe it or not smiling actually makes you happier.
Walking into a room alone can be daunting. So take off that edge by walking in with your work colleague.
Only warning is, don’t allow this to mean that you won’t mingle. Your colleague is only there as a mental safety net. Only use in case of emergency. Otherwise you should be on your own!
Start the evening by approaching someone with a familiar face or somebody that you knew once upon a time.
He or she will introduce you to the group that they’re standing with, and you’ll be able to use your usual charm from there, to ask questions,
Many people believe that in order to network, they need to be loud, funny, talk a lot and be a natural ‘shmoozer’.
If you are more shy and reserved, ‘faking’ your personality will not only seem odd to you, but will more than likely feel off to others.
Be proud of who you are, and true to that.
For authenticity bonus points, tell people you meet that you’re a little nervous. People appreciate honesty and sincerity, and you will probably hear that the person you’re talking to is feeling similar emotions and fears!