Networking Nerves? How To Make New Career Connections With Ease
Updated: Jan 3
What would I do in a room full of strangers? How would I meet anyone? What if nobody talks to me? If they do, what would I say? What if they aren’t interested and they walk away? Then I’ll be standing all by myself. How awkward. I don’t have a lot of free time. Maybe it’s easier to just email people in my network – they already know me and I’m sure they will help.
Networking. Everyone is telling you to get out there. You know you have to do it, but just the thought of it gives you heart palpitations and sweaty palms.
According to former Wall Street CEO, Sallie Krawcheck, “Networking is the No. 1 unwritten rule of success in business.” And, if you’re looking to make a career change, the statistics still say that finding a new job is highly dependent on “who you know.”
If the whole idea of “networking” makes you anxious, you are not alone. But, you are likely missing out on a lot of career and business opportunity.
While there are tons of resources and “how to’s” available to help you become a more effective networker, here are some tips to help you feel more prepared and confident – walking in the door!
Recruit a Wingperson: No need to go at it alone! Bring a friend or colleague, ideally someone who has experience in (and enjoys!) a networking setting, but who won’t overshadow you. A person who knows about your goals, and is there to support and encourage you. While it can be tempting to hang back in the corner to chat with your buddy, remember you are on a mission. You can always grab a drink afterwards!
Strike a Power Pose: Hop into the bathroom before you go in, and stand like a superhero for two minutes. Not kidding –this one is scientifically proven! According to Amy Cuddy, author of Presence, Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, posing like a superhero can actually make us feel more confident, present and less anxious! “If you feel like you shouldn’t be somewhere: Fake it. Do it not until you make it – but until you become it,” she says.
Wear the Nametag: Consider it a conversation piece. It might be corny (and unfashionable), but it’s a natural ice breaker. It’s so much easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger when you’re already on a “first name basis.” Note: You only have to wear one if offered – no need to bring you own from home.
Make A Game Of It: Challenge yourself to meet five new people at every networking outing you attend. Yes, 5! Find out their names, exchange pleasantries, find out what they are doing there, what they do for a living, exchange cards…maybe even plan a future coffee date! And, don’t forget to follow up with your new contacts when you get home!
Ask, Ask,Ask! A wise woman (my mom) once told me that if you’re feeling shy or nervous about being in a new social setting, come prepared with questions. She’s right. People love to talk about themselves! When you’re the one asking the questions, it takes the spotlight off of you, and you get to learn about someone new! Just don’t forget to actually listen, too!
Frankly Speaking: Taking time to meet new people and cultivate real relationships -live and in real time – is invaluable to your career. Put your phone down. Stop tweeting, snapping, ‘gramming, and just talk. Of course it might feel unnatural or awkward, but don’t get in your own way. Nothing extraordinary ever came from inside a comfort zone.