1. 1. the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
What happens when you show up at a conference, a career fair, or a roundtable event? Do you dive straight into the crowd and start mingling? Do you gently work your way in? Or, do you back into a corner and break out in a cold sweat?
For many people, networking is a terrifying, disabling prospect. This may be because they’re introspective, introverted, unconfident, shy, hindered by bad experiences, or simply new to it. Whatever the cause, a fear of networking can be hard to overcome once it’s established.
The good news is that none of us are born with a natural talent for networking, even the people who really enjoy it. Networking isn’t an “innate” ability, it’s a skill that anyone can learn. You don’t have to be a smooth operator or an extrovert go-getter to be successful; you just need to use the right strategies.
Networking takes many of us out of our comfort zones, but it is possible to overcome our fears when we use the right strategies.
To overcome a fear of networking:
1. Be selective about the events that you attend.
2. Research other attendees’ backgrounds to get useful information.
3. Set realistic, meaningful goals.
4. Think about what you’ll say, and listen to the responses.
5. Arrive early so that you can assess your surroundings.
6. Bring a colleague or friend for support.
7. Mind your body language and try to keep an open posture.
8. Go easy on yourself.
9. Take time out during the event to “recharge your batteries.”
10. Know when to move on from a conversation.
Remember, when networking, it is important to be a good listener, have a positive collaborative attitude, be sincere and authentic, follow up, be trustworthy, and be approachable.