It’s common advice that just happens to be true: Networking is key to building your career. Getting the best opportunities often involves knowing the right people.
But this fact has a catch. What if you’re not good at meeting people? Or more specifically, what if you think you’re not good at meeting people?
The truth is, you are probably better than you think. You may feel awkward and shy, and formal networking events might send you into dry heaves. But you’ve gotten this far in life. You have friends. You manage to keep in touch with your family and at least a few of the people you went to school with.
The goal now is to find some networking safe spaces, helping you build confidence and improve your skills. Here are four tips to ease into networking:
The scariest interaction in networking is person-to-person contact. If you’re an introvert, talking to strangers, whether on the phone or in person, can prove intimidating.
Luckily, no one is asking you to go back in time and network in 1954. The modern age is a magical time to be an introvert. You can make and maintain contacts online. You can hold long-term, meaningful friendships without ever having to directly talk to someone. If you can do that, a casual business acquaintanceship should pose no problem.
Introducing yourself to a stranger can be excruciatingly intimidating. Some people can strike up a casual conversation in an elevator and have a job offer by the 12th floor. That’s not you.
You might not be ready to turn random encounters into career opportunities. That’s fine. Instead, find situations where the pressure is off, where the purpose of conversations is obvious.
Attend conventions and conferences. While there, ask questions of speakers and chat up other attendees with obvious topics related to the exhibits. But it doesn’t have to be all business. Join clubs you enjoy, either online or IRL. Find any situation where you can build relationships in a more natural way, without having to approach people cold.
When a person practices an activity – like shooting a basketball or playing the violin – it develops something called muscle memory. Basically, your body becomes so used to the feeling of an activity that you can do it without thinking.
The same can be true for networking. Putting in a little practice will help you overcome those nerves.
Say your pitch to yourself in a mirror. Read out the career highlights from your resume. Get a feel for the words coming out of your mouth. It will come out much more naturally when you have to do it for real.
You don’t have to do this alone. When you go to a networking event, bring a friend. They don’t even have to be in the same industry as you. It’s just a person to stand next to you, give you some confidence and maybe pull the old “Have you met Ted?” routine.
Even better, try some professional help. No, not a psychiatrist. A staffing agency.
A staffing firm basically does some of the work of networking for you. They already have connections with local employers and can bridge the gap between your skills and the introductions you need. They also have career development services that might help you improve your networking skills in general.
Looking for a job?
Qualified Staffing is one of the top players in the industry. Contact our friendly, knowledgeable staff today to find out how we can help take your career to the next level.