One of the most effective strategies for getting employed is to network. Networking is practically #1 on every career counselor’s list and you may even hear the same message from your friends and family.
But what if you are afraid of networking or absolutely fear the thought of talking to a room full of strangers? Well, here are some of my personal tips that I hope will help you become a Fearless Networker:
Tip #1: Become an extrovert (for at least 60 minutes)
Even if you are the most introverted of introverts, our personalities are at their core are all about preferences. One of the major differences between introverts and extroverts is the preference they make when sourcing their energy supplier. Extroverts get energized by talking to and meeting with people and large groups. Introverts, on the other hand could be drained by meeting with people, especially large groups and prefer to gain energy by spending some quality time reading a book or another solitary activity.
In order to become an extrovert, for networking, you need to think of the experience of talking with people as a way gain energy. I recommend connecting the idea of energy to the idea of gaining knowledge. Who doesn’t want to learn something new and gain more awareness from interacting with others? So when you go to network, get energized to discover something new from one or more of the people you are meeting. The goal is the development of professional relationships that can help your future career mobility and success.
Tip #2: Prepare Topics and Questions
Like any other activity in life, the better you are prepared the better you will succeed. Lessen the stress of the networking experience by:
- Researching who will be in attendance and their work background via LinkedIn to gain conversation starters (i.e. their Education, Work Experience, Skills, Volunteer Experience)
- Gain information about their current employer or most recent employer including any recent news stories associated with their employer.
- Develop a list of safe topics to discuss during small talk (i.e. sports, social media, interests, recent trips or travel plans, current news). Avoid topics about race, religion, politics and sex for fear you might offend someone.
Tip #3: Know Your Limits
If networking makes you uncomfortable it is important to know your limits and to adjust your techniques. I will always preach, to who ever will listen, that the most effective relationships are formed in person. But if you don’t have time or have extreme social anxieties, I understand your reluctance to attend career fairs, conferences, panels and networking events.
- Consider using social media like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to create an online network that with time you will feel comfortable reaching out to those connections in person.
- The next best way to network, aside from in person, is on the phone or video chat. I often recommend, once you have met someone online and connected, the next step should be setting up a phone conversation. The more someone knows about you and feels connected to you, the more a person from your network may be willing to help you.
- If networking events are too much to handle and you prefer one-on-one conversations, request an informational interview from your network or ask someone if you can meet for coffee to learn more about their career path. No pressure… you’re not asking them for a job (right?).
I hope these tips can help you have no fear when it comes to networking. Please leave comments if you have other suggestions that might help our readers. I know there are many more tips. Happy Networking!