Networking Neurosis? Here’s Your 9-Step Program to Overcome It
Alone. In a sea of people you don’t know. And they all seem to know each other! Could you feel any more naked? Should you leave as quietly as you walked in?
No! Networking has a bad reputation for being intimidating, unnerving—but it shouldn’t.
Networking is a powerful tool that will help you as your career grows and develops. For those who suffer from a networking phobia, have no fear! Here are the nine seriously easy steps you can take to overcome it:
1. Understand Your Motivations
The first step to conquering your networking nightmares is understanding why networking is important.
The most obvious importance is when you are looking for a job. But the real power of networking comes from using your connections to help someone else. You will be amazed at how good it feels to help a friend solve their personal dilemma by connecting them with another acquaintance of yours.
2. Start Early
Start building your network when you don’t need help. It’s much harder to reach out to someone for the first time when you need something from them. Lay the groundwork when you’re just asking to be connected, nothing more.
3. Get Out There!
Admittedly, your first networking event is probably going to be tough, but it will get easier as you do more. I promise. So get out there!
4. Don’t Judge
At your networking event, don’t just look around for the most well-known or senior person. You never know who may become a connection for you in the future. So, just walk up to anyone who looks interesting! Hopefully, someone will take the same approach in getting to know you.
5. Business Cards Exist for a Reason
Always introduce yourself (concisely) and hand out your card. When someone gets a business card, they will share theirs in return. And make sure you actually look at their card when it’s handed to you; it’s much easier to remember names when you can link them to a face. And, let’s be honest, we all love when people actually remember our names!
6. Listen More, Talk Less
Try to spend more time asking questions than talking. Not only does this alleviate some pressure from you, but most people like to chat about themselves, and they will probably remember you better if you’re the one asking engaging questions that show you’re actually interested in them.
7. Be Interesting
When you do chat about yourself, share something that’s relevant or interesting to the other party. It could be a brief summary of a trip you took to Africa to work in an orphanage or a recent case competition you participated in. Your goal is to get the other person to want to ask you more questions and to remember you!
8. Move Around!
Talk to more than one person. You’re here to meet people, so make sure you have the opportunity to do so. An easy way to leave a conversation and move on is to be polite but frank: “It was so terrific to meet you, but I’m new to this group and I want to make sure I socialize a bit more.”
9. Take Notes and Follow Up
When you leave the event, make notes on the business cards you collected about anything that struck you. That way, when you do follow up to meet for that coffee, you can reference something that you talked about. It will let the person know you paid attention and allows you to connect in a non-generic way.
Remember, networking takes time, practice and follow-up, so try to get into a regular routine of meeting new people. (And, BTW, try to have some fun while you’re at it!)
Do you suffer networking phobia? What tips can you offer for working through it? Share with us in the comments!
This post originally appeared on Career Attraction.