Time and time again, we have seen that networking is an effective way to lead individuals into greater job/business opportunities, a wider breadth of knowledge, and so much more. Fostering and maintaining these professional relationships can come in handy at any time during your career. Networking is a way to invest in your future. It is not uncommon to be approached with an outstanding job opportunity by a close colleague or business acquaintance when you least expect it.
Many times, people get scared by the prospect of networking. An individual’s fear may come from a lack of confidence, being naturally introverted/shy, or are new to the networking scene. Whatever the case, saying no to networking will hinder your potential to professionally excel. However, with this being said, the fear of networking is perfectly rational and commonly seen. The art of networking is built through continuous practice through social interaction, which will gradually build confidence in anyone’s ability to connect with others. If you resonate with this natural instilled-fear of professionally connecting with others, then you’re reading the right article. Here we will be covering some tips and tricks that will help you overcome your fear of networking and help make you a confident networker.
Do Not Have a Personal Agenda
Perhaps you might have a hidden agenda or strong reason for networking, which I would like to remind you, is not bad at all! We all have goals and aspirations that we strive to achieve. Your goal may be to connect with an executive from a Fortune 500 company to help you land you a job, or maybe this individual knows a recruiter in a company that can submit an internal reference in a position to give your candidacy the nudge you need to stand out. Oftentimes, it is this mindset that can hinder you from forming a true personal connection when networking. It becomes easily evident when you are explicitly trying to use an individual as a resource rather than a person. So instead of making the conversation about getting a referral or interview offer, try to focus on forming a personal relationship that could be mutually beneficial.
Share your story. Listen to what they have to say. Many times, the best conversations are driven by a deeper understanding of each others’ goals and achievements. Try not to engage surface-level superficial talk, but rather get to know each other by sharing a bit about your story and how you have gotten to where you are today. Speak to the person as if they are someone you are trying to know, rather than someone you are trying to use as a means. This will make the conversation more genuine and organic. This authenticity will help alleviate the majority of the stress you may be feeling when professionally networking. People will be more likely to remember you if they know you on a personal level. This means be proud of your story, goals, and direction. Here are some things you can ask that will kickstart the conversation:
How did you land into your current position? What steps did you take along the way to get there? What knowledge/experience do you think has best served you in the last year?What is your favorite thing about your position? How has your position evolved given recent cultural/societal shifts and trends?
These are just a few points you can bring up. There is so much that you can talk about to organically fuel a conversation. Just remember to make it count.
Know That You Have Little to Nothing to Lose
Let me let you in on a little secret: people love talking about themselves and their accomplishments. They also usually love to help other people meet their career goals. Use this to your advantage when networking. Whether in-person or online, when you first reach out, you should prompt them to want to get back to you by asking to hear more about their position, experience in their field/company, etc. If you frame the outreach in this way, the person will very likely get back to you (online) or be more receptive to the conversation (in-person and online). If for some reason they are not receptive, you have lost nothing! You tried on your end to reach out, and that is all you can do to begin the conversation. Always remember that networking can only benefit you.
Trust in the Power of Networking
If you believe in the power of networking and helping others, you will reap the benefits of it. Networking is a system of giving and helping, and the best thing about it is that you never know when the fruits of it will fall into your hands. Embrace the fact that through cultivating these professional relationships, you are only helping your career advancement and prospects.