Whether you’ve just starting off in your career or you’re looking to make that next big leap, one of the best skills you can learn is how to network. But if the thought of ‘working the room’ and approaching stranger after stranger makes you cringe like nothing else, we’ve got some tips to help you navigate the networking waters.
Being introverted or shy doesn’t mean you can’t network well – it can even be used to your advantage in many situations. Here’s how it’s done.
1. Network individually
Send an email or tweet to someone you admire and ask them for coffee. Getting to know them one-on-one will be more comfortable for you, and they’ll be flattered by your individual attention. You’ll end up developing a stronger relationship with them than you would if you’d met them at an event, and they’ll be much more likely to remember you. It’s a win-win.
2. Be social media savvy
If you’re shy or introverted, social media can be your best friend. Follow the companies, brands and people you admire – it can really pay off as more and more companies post jobs on their social media channels.
Dedicated networking sites like LinkedIn are a godsend, and it’s worth knowing how to use it properly. Reaching out to to people on LinkedIn (and having a top notch profile yourself) is a great way to make meeting them in person at an upcoming event less daunting.
3. Study up and come prepared
Lots of networking events have guestlists available for you to check. If making sparkling conversation off the cuff isn’t your strong point, studying up on the people you want to meet will help you prepare. Check their LinkedIn profile – maybe you went to the same uni or worship the same football team.
4. Bring a buddy
We all feel more confident with a wingman (or wingwoman, rather) at our side on a night out, so why not apply that to networking? It will take a bit of pressure off you, and give you backup support at the same time.
5. Have short conversations, follow up later
If you’re stuck going to an event, or you’ve decided to jump in the deep end, keep your conversations short and keep it moving. When you see someone you want to talk to, politely dart in and say something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but such and such suggested we meet. I have to run in a minute and just wanted to get your business card so I can follow up later.” It’s pretty hard for people to say no to this. Then after the event reach out to them and set up lunch or coffee.
6. Set simple goals
No one said you need to talk to everyone in the room, so settle on one important person you’ve been dying to meet, or five total strangers and take some of the pressure off.
7. Make it about them
In any uncomfortable situation, an introvert’s best strategy is to simply take the attention off yourself by asking questions and being a good listener. Most people love to talk about themselves, and once you feel more comfortable, you might open up a bit, too!
8. Embrace your nerves
If all else fails, take a deep breath and go for it. Like any skill, socialising with strangers takes practise – but you’ll get there!
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By Reenat Sinay