Talking and schmoozing and interacting, oh my! When you network, you can expect to partake in all of the above, but you don’t have to be uncomfortable while doing so. The more experience you gain, the more confident you’ll become. In the meantime, there are tricks of the trade that will help you network with greater ease and peace of mind.
Often accompanied by sweaty palms, self-doubt, and unnecessary amounts of worry, networking is a daunting task for many. Though forging professional connections is a true stepping stone to success, a lot of budding professionals squirm at the idea of having to network. Unfortunately, unnecessary stress and anxiety overshadow the importance of building these relationships, which is why it can feel so wrong.
Networking can seem like an uncomfortable chore, a cost one pays for career growth. In reality, it can be an enjoyable way to gain substantial knowledge, advance your career, and streamline your job search. To ensure that you’re getting these benefits, here’s how you can overcome self-consciousness and, in turn, become more comfortable finding your allies.
A great way to start getting comfortable is to attend some networking events where you don't know very many people. Practice these tips and you'll find your confidence growing pretty quickly.
While you don't need to rehearse, it’s wise to have some talking points at the ready. Not only will this leave fewer lulls in the conversation, it’ll also allow you to showcase your assets. If you can find a happy medium between casual talk and giving a speech, you’ll have found your sweet spot. From there, the conversation will flow naturally, causing any initial discomfort to subside.
If worry and uncertainty are written all over your face, others will pick up on it. This will make both parties feel awkward, so it’s crucial to put on a happy face. Though your smile may be feigned at first, don’t underestimate the power of positivity. The longer you wear your smile, the higher your chances are of genuinely enjoying yourself. As a result, your nervousness will inevitably take a back seat, allowing you to dominate the situation.
When doubt and fear take the reins, it can become difficult to listen. As the conversation progresses, you may then find yourself becoming more anxious, as you start to feel that you seem inattentive. So make it a point to listen and engage from the beginning. In addition to being polite, this will also encourage authentic discussion. The more genuine your experiences are, the more you’ll break out of your shell and spark lasting relationships.
If you’ve arrived solo, find others in the crowd who match your energy and appeal to you. In other words, don’t gravitate towards the outspoken ones or incredibly chatty folks. Instead, seek out like-minded individuals you’d actually like to connect with. This may prove tricky at first, but don’t get discouraged. Let your intuition guide you.
Selling yourself as a competent professional is a surefire way to nail any networking event. With that in mind, keep your sights set on doing just that. By doing so, you won’t give your fear the chance to take control. Simply put, place all your focus on what you’re trying to accomplish, and don’t get caught up in every subtle mistake or stutter you make. By going in with some realistic goals, you’re bound to defeat any discomfort.
Most importantly, don’t stray too far from your roots. Attempting to be someone you’re not will only make you a nervous wreck. To prevent leaving a trail of anxiety and destruction in your wake, embrace who you are. While this takes practice and self-assurance, it’s far easier to be sincere than disingenuous. What’s more, people respond better to authenticity, so it’s in your best interest to be yourself.
By heeding the above advice, you can learn to network with great panache and poise. Contrary to popular belief, putting yourself out there doesn’t have to cause distress. With a healthy dose of assertiveness and preparation, you’ll discover just how easy and painless it is to network.