I have been to a few networking sessions and the number of people I come across who say, 'Oh I hate this, I'm not good at selling myself and I have to force myself to do this' is quite substantial, especially women. There are many reasons for this ingrained belief that talking about our selves is just 'showing off' so how can we start to manage it to enable us to attend these events in a more positive way?
Overcoming the fear of networking can be a transformative step in advancing your professional growth and expanding your opportunities. Here are ten strategies to help you overcome your fear and build your networking skills:
- Shift your mindset: Instead of viewing networking as intimidating or self-promotion, reframe it as an opportunity to connect, learn, and build mutually beneficial relationships. Embrace a positive and curious mindset.
- Start small: Begin by attending smaller, more intimate networking events or gatherings. This allows for more meaningful interactions and helps ease you into larger networking environments.
- Set achievable goals: Set specific, attainable goals for each networking event. It can be as simple as initiating a conversation with two new people or exchanging contact information. Accomplishing these goals will boost your confidence and motivation.
- Be prepared: Prepare a brief introduction about yourself and practice it beforehand. Also, research the event or individuals you may encounter to have relevant topics for discussion.
- Find common ground: Look for common interests, shared experiences, or professional affiliations to initiate conversations. It helps to break the ice and create connections on a more personal level.
- Active listening: Focus on actively listening to others during conversations. Show genuine interest in what they are saying and ask open-ended questions to deepen the conversation. This demonstrates your engagement and establishes rapport.
- Offer support: Networking is a two-way street. Be willing to provide help, insights, or resources to others. By offering support, you contribute to building meaningful connections and fostering a reciprocal networking environment.
- Join professional groups and associations: Participate in industry-related associations or organizations that align with your interests. These groups provide a platform for networking within a familiar context, making it easier to connect with like-minded professionals.
- Practice regularly: Like any skill, networking improves with practice. Challenge yourself to attend networking events regularly, both online and in-person. Each interaction will help build your confidence and refine your networking abilities.
- Seek support and accountability: Find a networking buddy or mentor who can support and encourage you in your networking endeavours. They can provide guidance, share their experiences, and hold you accountable for expanding your network.
Remember, overcoming the fear of networking takes time and patience. Start by implementing a few strategies and gradually push yourself out of your comfort zone. With consistent effort, networking will become more comfortable, and you'll reap the benefits of expanded professional connections and opportunities.
We always look to hear your feedback and your stories so feel to share them with us at email@example.com.
Joanne and Maggie