Networking can feel daunting and certainly isn’t second nature for many of us. When there seems to be so many expectations on how you should act, the first time walking into a networking session can trigger anxiety and panic. Don’t let these fears stop you from networking, because it really is ‘who you know, not what you know’ in this increasingly digital, impersonal world.
The term ‘networking’ may invoke images of a large crowded room of successful professionals trying to find others highly qualified people who will help them step up in their career. With high standards like these, no wonder many are terrified of stepping into this world. Start rethinking what networking is and you will be one giant step further towards becoming a networking pro. Here are our 3 fundamental tips:
Know your strengths.
What are you an expert at? Which main skills characterize your profession? Do you have specific experience in an obscure area? Take a good look at your resumé, your work life (and maybe even your personal life!) and get to know which strengths are your best. This will not only boost confidence, but will give you some basic speaking points when talking to strangers about your career.
Career Catalyst: Prepare a 30-second elevator pitch that describes your professional experience (past), abilities (present), and interests (future).
Don’t just ‘sell’ yourself.
If you approach networking with a ‘me-first’ attitude, you may come off desperate, selfish, or even obnoxious. No matter if you are networking in person or digitally via social media or email, remember that creating relationships is a two-way street. The whole point of networking is about creating contacts which will be mutually beneficial (perhaps not right away, but at some point). Just because this art historian has no idea what C++ is, doesn’t mean their spouse/ colleague/ best friend from college won’t! Plus, your skills may be valuable to them, and hey, maybe you will need their advice on art once you land that 6-figure job!
Career Catalyst: Don’t discard or ignore potential contacts or opportunities that aren’t 100% up your alley.
Genuineness is at a premium in our increasingly superficial world. Individuals, including employers, can often find qualified people using application screening but trustworthiness can’t be vetted with a test. When you show your true colours, you are displaying a more representative picture of who you are as a person and as an employee. Pretending to be the ‘perfect’ candidate, whatever that is, will not benefit you in the long run if the opportunity really isn’t the right fit. Be real with your energy levels – don’t force yourself to be super-outgoing if you aren’t!. Be comfortable in your own skin and your confidence will radiate and attract others.
Career Catalyst: Walking into any social situation with a genuine interest in the other person is the best way to lower anxiety because it takes the pressure off of you to perform.