Do you know many people who actually enjoy networking?
If you’re like most people, you find it awkward or uncomfortable, and if you’re an introvert, it might even feel excruciating.
However, you are aware that effective networking is critical for your career, whether you are looking for a new job, a promotion, or to grow your business. If you want to advance in your career, you must have strong networking skills.
So how can you make it less stressful? Try these tips to get more out of your network, and maybe you’ll even enjoy it!
1. Do your homework
You wouldn’t dream of going to a job interview or an important meeting without preparing, would you? Treat networking events the same. Find out as much as you can about the event, who’s organizing it, and who will be there. Study the sponsor’s website and arm yourself with knowledge, so you have two or three topics of conversation to help break the ice and start connecting with other participants.
2. Find yourself a role
If it’s appropriate, see if there’s any way you can volunteer to help out. If you have some official position, you have a ready-made pretext to connect with people. Make sure to check in with the organizers first, but maybe they could do with some extra people to staff the registration desk or set out welcome packs. Perhaps you could offer to take event photos or live Tweet. At question time, you could help pass the microphone.
3. Take a friend
Who says you have to go to networking events alone? It will feel much better if you invite a friend or colleague to share the learnings. Not only will you feel braver about connecting, but you’ll also likely look more approachable than if you’re standing alone radiating anxiety.
4. Find the key networker
You can take the stress off yourself by looking around to find the extrovert, the natural networker who knows everyone. In any big group, there will always be one or two people who are enjoying connecting with people. Find that person and benefit from their positive networking. Follow in their wake, and you will find it much easier to join in the conversation.
5. Turn it into a game
Try taking the heat off yourself by turning networking into a game. Before you go, make yourself a list or even a bingo card of things you want to achieve. Your networking goals can include things like connecting with two people, handing your business card to five people, connecting on LinkedIn to three people.