How do you feel about networking? We all know that it is an effective job search tool, but is it something that you enjoy or something that you dread? If networking makes you feel painfully uncomfortable, here are some tips that may help:
Be Yourself. It may sound like a cliché, but it is just as important now as it was when you were a child. So many people are under the mistaken impression that they need to play a role when they are networking. However, you will quickly find that being true to yourself makes it easier for you to build strong connections.
Just Talk to People. Many job seekers build networking up into this big, scary thing, but when it comes down to it; networking is just talking to people. When you’re at a networking event, focus your attention on the person standing in front of you; it will make you feel less nervous and will make the person you are speaking with feel important.
Try to Help Others. Networking is all about reciprocity; you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. When you’re making new connections, try to think about what you have to offer them. Is there someone in your network that you can connect them with? Are you aware of any opportunities that may be of interest to them? When you are focused on helping others, you tend to forget about your own insecurities.
Fake it. The great thing about confidence is that you can fake it. Even when you feel completely out of your element, if you hold your head high and put on a smile, everyone will think that you’re the most confident person in the room. Don’t worry; most people are so busy worrying about their own insecurities that they won’t even notice that you’re feeling a little shy.
Not everyone is born with the ability to ‘work a room’. For most people, networking is a skill that they need to develop. However, when you invest time and energy into it, it does get easier. Stick with it and you may be surprised to find that you actually enjoy it!
(Written by: Karen Bivand)