“Expand your connections and network.” That’s what everyone tells you to do. But the thought of talking to new people and developing relationships terrifies you. But we’ve got to face it: whether you’re extremely shy or new to the working life, networking is crucial to making important connections that might come in handy down the road.
Take this moment to breathe.
Networking isn’t as scary as it sounds.
Think about it: you’ve been creating a whole network of connections your whole life. Be it school, clubs or social activities, you’ve met people who have expanded your circle of friends. How you approach meeting new people in a business setting shouldn’t be any different.
Alternatively, if that still frightens you, you can take networking as a sort of game. Before you attend a networking event, set a rule for yourself. You’ll have to finish X number of conversations before you can decide to leave (X being a reasonable number you’re comfortable with; for example 3). After each session, take some time to review what worked well and which events are the best for networking. As time passes, push yourself to try harder (to level up if you will).
Here are some tips:
What will truly help you break out of your shell is planning ice-breakers that will set a more comfortable tone for the conversation. Think about what everyone likes talking about. Travel and eating are two of the biggest conversation starters that can lead to bigger things.
With that prepared, you’re ready to network! But you’re frightened at the thought of having to make introductions repeatedly. Here’s a tip: find a person who seems to know everybody and ask him or her to introduce you! The advantage of having to do this (besides not having to approach a few people in a night) is that the introduction made by somebody else tends to have more weight and importance.
Once the conversation starts, you’ll have to remember that it’s never one-way. Practice good listening because it helps you establish a better connection with that person. And when they have a better connection with you, they tend to remember you better. On the other hand, share your own stories. It makes you more personable and warm.
See, networking isn’t as scary as it sounds, is it? If you’re still a little worried, remember that practice is key. The more you attend networking events and start conversations, the easier it becomes. Even if there are no events to attend at the moment, you can also strike up a conversation with a colleague you’re not very close to or even role-play with a friend.
Source: Alan O’Rourke (photo)
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