Do you hate networking? Who you know can deeply influence the opportunities presented to you in your career and in your personal life. Consider this: “Networking” can transcend the Mad Men-esque cocktail parties and business cards of yesteryear.
We have compiled a top-10 list of tips for networking, specifically tailored toward people who despise it. If this is you, browse this advice meant to help you get the most out of networking without feeling repulsed or reduced to avoidance. You can do this and you may even enjoy it!
Address the hatred. Know thyself. What is it about networking events that repels you? If big crowds aren’t your thing, arrange one-on-ones. If you don’t like showing up unannounced, join an organization where you come to be expected. Set yourself up to succeed by knowing what you won’t put up with.
Scale it back. Successful networking doesn’t necessarily correlate with the amount of events one attends or hours spent mingling. Instead, attend one or two events per month, stay for an hour each, and work your way up. Just be sure your time is spent fruitfully and always follow up.
Take a friend. Simply arriving and leaving with someone, and knowing there is someone else you can take up conversation with if things start to lag, can be comforting. Strategize separation and reunion so that you always have a buffer.
Find an activity. Not all networking events rely on cocktails or coffee and idle chatter – volunteer or join an organization or conference with activities planned. It is much easier to take up conversation when you and another person are sharing an experience or task, plus the quieter moments don’t feel so awkward.
Start digital. If you’re a bit shy or uncomfortable in social situations, start with a webinar, Linkedin group, or Twitter chat. You can generate contacts, build a reputation, and share your articulate commentary into the discussion in ways you aren’t yet confident to do face to face.
Set a goal. Turn networking into a game or challenge with a feasible goal. Rather than challenge yourself to meet 20 people, strive to shake hands with five. If you can do this, the next event won’t seem so daunting.
Research & prepare. Like with any nerve-wracking activity or event, preparedness can go a long way to quell concerns. If you have a list of the attendees or members of an upcoming get-together, scope their profiles online and know who you might meet. This may make it easier to strike up a conversation or feel less displaced.
Ask questions. Like many others, you may be uncomfortable talking about yourself or trying to #humblebrag your way to the top. So, don’t! Appeal to the thousands of people who love to talk about themselves and ask questions to engage a new acquaintance. The questions you ask and the initiative you take will speak volumes about who you are.
Assume you’re not alone. If you are uncomfortable, it is fair to assume others are, too. Find a confidence you didn’t know you had by striving at the next event to seek out the quiet ones and make others feel welcome. Take up a host or hostess role and fake it until you make it!
Networking doesn’t have to be a nail-biting undertaking. Consider the tips above and, as always, consult with the workforce experts at The Reserves Network for career advice.