Networking involves establishing and developing long-term relations of mutual benefit with people. Whether you are attending a conference, part of a sports league, or in the queue to order a coffee, you are always surrounded by opportunities to make valuable connections.
Interacting with people from different professional backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures offer you a broader scope of life. It also helps you communicate clearly by giving you a confidence boost.
Nevertheless, not everyone finds networking fun. In fact, most professionals dread dragging themselves to a professional networking event or starting conversations with strangers. But know that everything takes practice. While networking can be intimidating at first, once you overcome that initial fear, you will be amazed by the vast array of benefits it can offer.
What Makes Networking Difficult
You might hate networking, especially if you are an introvert or aren’t particularly good at the art of small talk. Walking into a room full of strangers can create problems from anxiety to tension. Here are some of the major reasons people find networking difficult or intimidating.
Expecting Immediate Results
Attending networking events can be disheartening at times, particularly when you have to leave without at least two or three quality contacts. However, good things take time. So, don’t expect to meet people beneficial for your career as soon as you walk into your first or second networking event.
Be patient and put in enough effort. For instance, learn how to communicate in an understandable way what you do and how you can help employers. This will help you obtain valuable advice or find leads sooner than later.
Furthermore, try to keep the communication lines open with people whom you met at a past networking event. Also, help them without expecting anything in return. You never know how or when they could be of help in the future.
It Doesn’t Come Naturally
A room full of strangers, name tags, and awkward small talks, networking events can be anything but comfortable, especially if you are an introvert. However, know that this environment is hard on almost everyone present there, making effective networking a challenge.
To network efficiently, you need relaxed conversations and casual chitchats before delivering the elevator pitch. Often, personal introductions through people you know are ideal to go, but they can limit your network.
So, before heading to a networking event, come up with a game plan. If you are introverted, don’t expect to go and speak to everyone in the room. Instead, choose a few people you think might add value to your network. Prepare some questions for specific people, as well as talking points.
Make sure you speak at ease and don’t jump into your elevator speech. Instead, talk about current events, the weather, what brought you there, and more.
A Lack of Confidence
Even with the time set aside, and the good reasons in mind, mustering up the confidence to build your professional network can be challenging. What if the manager you ask a favor of denies your request? What if the industry expert you met doesn’t care to be in touch? What if the co-worker you want to connect with finds your outreach bothersome?
Regardless of the type of “what if” that’s holding you back, these concerns can be solved with a bit of genuine generosity. Plan to establish a relationship with someone by being of service and authentic instead of being laser-focused on getting what you want from that person.
For instance, listen attentively to a manager’s response about the project they have been handling lately, and try to figure out a need you might be able to fill. Do you have the right skills to get the job done? Can you help them with an introduction to potential clients they have been trying to reach?
Everybody has their fair share of problems. All you got to do is find your strength and be willing to share them. If you feel particularly anxious attending a meeting, consider stress toys for anxiety. They can help calm your nerves when you are in a networking event.
Irrelevant Network Contacts
One reason why networking is considered difficult or intimidating is that it takes significant effort. It takes effort to meet the right people.
Networking efforts can be unnecessarily challenging and fruitless if you are building a network of irrelevant contacts or associations. Networking the right way includes figuring out the type of people you want to meet. For instance, if you are looking for a job, you might want to research employers in your preferred industry and then meet them when the time is right.
Nonetheless, remember that these people are the ones everyone else wants to meet too. So, it can take considerable time and work to be the one to meet them.
Start Building Your Network
One of the greatest benefits of networking is fast-tracking your career growth and bettering your communication skills. In addition, a circle of professionals from various walks of life will increase your likelihood of getting referrals and job opportunities. So, take the time to come up with a networking strategy, and focus on turning it into a positive experience.