Do you find yourself filled with fear and anxiety when you hear the word “networking”? Do you avoid any gathering or event that is billed as a “networking opportunity”?
If the answer is yes to either of these questions, you are not alone.
Networking settings often feel forced and the people attending find it challenging to behave naturally. It can be an incredibly awkward situation.
This doesn’t have to be the case.
Networking is essential and it should not send you into a complete panic, or worse, something you avoid.
It is possible to become confident in your networking abilities by reducing your level of anxiety and possibly get to the point where you actually enjoy networking.
Although “enjoy” and “networking” aren’t often found in the same sentence, the point of this article is to help assuage your fears about networking and provide you with tips on how to reduce your nervousness and develop your networking abilities.
The purpose of networking is to make connections with people who can provide you with information about something that interests you.
This can be about a job, another contact, or helpful advice.
Networking is about gathering information and meeting people that could help you in the future, not necessarily provide you with a job right now.
Gathering information about a job is very different from the “get me a job” perspective.
It’s important to keep in mind that networking is not a job interview.
It is a give and take experience; not only about how someone else can help you, but also how you can help someone else.
Take comfort in the fact that while networking, you might actually be the one who is viewed as the expert or the information source.
Always keep in mind what you can offer to others.
The first thing you should do when deciding to network is get a sense of where you are.
You might attend an event that is specifically about networking or you could find yourself among people in a social setting who could help you with your goals.
In either environment, you should try to relax.
Be aware of the people and the atmosphere around you.
Take your time to feel grounded before you turn the conversation to business.
Once you’ve taken some time to get comfortable in the environment, introduce yourself to a new person and start discussing ideas on how you might help each other.
If the person is responsive, then congratulations, you are on your way to networking with a new contact.
If person is not responsive or you don’t feel comfortable in the conversation, politely move on.
Fear of rejection is a common reason that people avoid networking.
Your interests might not be the same as the others in the room.
Simply consider this a mismatch of skills, not as someone rejecting you.
It is important to recognize that not every new connection will be interested in what you have to offer or in your professional networking agenda.
Here are some tips to help reduce your anxiety once you are engaged in a conversation:
- Be genuine and sincere
- Know your professional goals at all times
- Listen, ask questions, and express interest in what the other person is saying
- Focus on information that is most important for you to share
- Focus on the positive things you have done instead of what you could do
Try setting small goals for yourself, like talking to three new people at a networking or professional event.
Start your networking attempts where there is minimal pressure.
You strengthen the muscle every time you use it.
The way to get good at networking is the same way you get to Carnegie Hall – practice.