Top 5 Ways to Make Networking Less Intimidating
At some point in our academic or professional careers, we all have encountered the term “networking.” College is often made out to be a pivotal experience in life where you can be exposed to people with different ideas, cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs, etc. Post graduation, this newfound opportunity to network with peers and professors is exciting and life-changing. For others, like those who may be on the introverted or shy side, the strong social elements of networking can prove to be overwhelming and intimidating.
For most of us and our desired career paths, networking is a necessary element to not only be successful in our individual jobs, but to also expand our personal brand. In a world that is reliant upon technology and social media, networking is easier than ever. With more niche sites like LinkedIn to broader ones like Facebook, when it comes to networking, you have the world at your fingertips. Are you someone that is more on the introverted side? Does the idea of meeting new people and building connections slightly intimidate you? Do you want to get more out of your career and create meaningful work relationships? Check out these top five tips on how to make networking less intimidating below and I promise you won’t regret it!
It’s a natural instinct to want to say “sorry” when approaching or reaching out to someone. Though you may think it’s the most respectful thing to do, it shows the person you’re trying to network with that you’re not confident and most likely lacking professionalism, Meridith Levinson of CIO.com notes. When approaching someone to build a connection, say something along the lines of “Hello! I don’t mean to take up much of your time, but…” This not only shows that you are considerate of their time, but it also shows that you are confident and strong in your communication skills. If you absolutely feel the urge to say that five letter word, just mutter it to yourself after you’re done talking to the person so they don’t hear it!
Stray From the Term “Networking”
“Networking” has a heavy, intimidating connotation to it. For some, seeing or hearing the word can spiral them into an anxiety attack, stressing them out beyond belief. One way to make networking less intimidating is to abolish the term itself! If the word makes you feel like you have to be “something” or “someone,” try something else!
The Editor of the Muse writes, “scratch that word altogether, and think of your next networking event as an “open exchange” — one with no pressure and plenty of opportunity. At an “open exchange,” you’re free to share ideas, contacts, information, and resources with tons of interesting people.” Feels better already, right?
Find Common Interests
What better way to build connections than to find common interests with others? If you can touch on a common interest or short/long term goal with someone, you can better connect with them, making the idea of exchanging ideas less intimidating.
Authors Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino, and Maryam Kouchaki of the Harvard Business Review write, “Numerous studies in social psychology have demonstrated that people establish the most collaborative and longest-lasting connections when they work together on tasks that require one another’s contributions.”
Host Your Own Get Together
This sounds informal, and maybe it is, but a small get together is a great way to get to know people and help reduce any anxieties you have about networking.
The Editor of the Muse suggests, “Email 10 of your friends, suggest a place and date, and ask each person to bring someone new. To keep the event more professional, you could plan a structured conversation about everyone’s career goals, the status of their job satisfaction, or even current industry trends.” Networking this way can help calm you and give you more of a sense of control of the people you talk to and the overall networking process!
Utilize Social Media
Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., social media sites can be an easy way to connect with people and network at the click of your computer mouse.
Fauzia Burke of the Huffington Post notes, “Social media experts at SocialMediaExaminer.com, say that Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are whole package platforms — and are considered both social media (tools) and social networking (a way to engage). “ You can find people with common interests through your job social media pages on Facebook or Twitter, or by simply exploring different organizations and clubs in your area!
Networking as an introverted person is not the easiest task. There’s no denying the fact that it can be hard to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to others. However, through slow and easy steps, you will find that it will be way less painful and overwhelming than you thought! As always, good luck!