Networking is a scary thing for a lot of us, regardless of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. In order to network, you have to put yourself out there and into a vulnerable position. But, it’s important to not let your fears of networking take over because networking is both a useful and necessary skill in almost every profession. If networking makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Through your discomfort, you’ll learn a lot and eventually the situations that make you uncomfortable will get better and easier over time. That’s what we tell ourselves anyway!
So, here are some helpful tips and reminders to get you over your fear of networking so that you can conquer your career and make meaningful connections with others.
1. Bring a friend
If you’re expected to go to a company event, or more specifically a networking event, it’s okay to bring a friend. Your friends are there for you and will help you out of (what you think is) an awkward situation with co-workers or higher-ups. Plus, just knowing your friend is there will help ease your nerves. However, it is important to not talk to just your friend. Together, mingle with others for an hour. Then, be strict with yourself and go spread your wings...solo! Trust us, you got this.
2. Start Small
Your first networking event does not have to be anything extravagant or large-scale. You can start learning how to network through emailing and social media. Yup, we said it. You’re on various social media platforms throughout the day, so why not send someone you admire a private message through one of those avenues? But, be sure to get to your point quickly. Tell them explicitly why you’re messaging them and hint as to why it would be worth their time to chat with you.
3.Preparation is key
If you have an event coming up where you might be expected to mingle with other people in your company, on your team, or in the same field, study up. Do your research so that you are as prepared as possible. Doing this will help you know what you’re talking about and will make you feel more comfortable when the time to start talking arrives. If there is a guest list you can get your hands on, learn some things about those attending. If you find yourself interested in someone who will be there, start thinking of conversation starters ahead of time. Remember: people love to talk about themselves, so asking others about themselves is always a great place to start.
4. We all get nervous
Networking can often be like going on auditions in that it gets easier over time. However, it is still nerve wracking no matter how experienced you are. Knowing that you’re not the only one who is nervous should help ease your nerves, but also remember not to take yourself too seriously. Allow yourself to feel awkward and remember that it could pay off in the end. Maybe the awkwardness of it all could propel you forward in your professional life, making it all worth it. Get out of our head and make those connections that can land you your dream career! You can do it.