For some, the word “networking” can bring on an immediate wave of anxiety and fear. When you’re at an event filled with various employers and job seekers, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Those who consider themselves introverts may struggle in these situations since introverts work better in smaller settings. Introverts often get mistaken for being shy, but shyness is whole different quality altogether. Shy people have a tendency to fear the judgment of others and therefore be socially awkward. Extroverts tend to be the life of the party, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect networkers either. According to etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, people of all three personality types can learn a thing or two about networking. Here are a few tips you can follow to improve your networking skills:
1) Set a time limit.
The idea of staying the duration of an event can be intimidating to some. But the truth is, you don’t have to stay the entire time. What’s more, you may do better if you set a time limit for yourself. Tell yourself that you’ll only go the event for one hour, or another chunk of time that you’re okay with. This way, you will take the pressure off of yourself and just go to the event. When you show up to an event, there are endless possibilities of who you are going to meet, who you are going to run into, and how it is going to help your professional and personal life.
2) Keep your expectations in check.
You should definitely go to any event that you can attend, but you don’t have to pressure yourself into meeting a lot of people. You can often make great connections just by speaking to one or two people. It is not about how many conversations you have, but about the quality of those conversations.
3) Ask for an introduction.
This tip can be helpful regardless of your personality type. Find a person who knows everyone, perhaps the person hosting the event, and ask this person to connect you with whomever it is you want to meet. The person you are being introduced to will see you differently if someone with authority is introducing you to them rather than if you go up to them and introduce yourself.
4) Tell personal stories.
We often get the idea that we shouldn’t talk about anything personal in professional settings. While of course there are some topics that are too private for a networking setting, adding a personal story to your conversation can make you memorable and interesting.
5) Listening empathetically.
When you ask someone a question, listen to them with the intent of understanding them and establishing a connection. If you form a connection with someone, that person is more likely to remember you.
6) Practice networking every day.
Like any other skill, networking gets easier the more you do it. You need to keep practicing networking skills in order to maintain them. You can do this during the course of every work day by walking around the office and starting brief conversations with co-workers. It’s easy to stay in networking practice each and every day just by asking people how their weekends were and making other small talk.
Networking is a challenging skill that only comes with time. With these helpful tips, you can learn where to start.