Does the idea of going out to network mortify you? Believe me, you are in good company!
I’ve coached and advised over 60 people on effective job search strategies in less than a year, and all but a handful share in this sentiment. The typical reaction I get when I ask people “how do you feel about networking?” I am usually met either with a grimace or a horrified look :-S
My theory is that we feel this way because we are programmed to think that we have to go out and ‘sell’ or ‘market’ our skills and make a ’30 second pitch.’ That is a lot of pressure, especially if you are new at it or tend to be shy.
Here is the secret to help networking efforts ‘feel good’: Change your perspective.
There are many ways to look at networking from a different angle.
Here are 7 secrets that can help you feel good about networking:
1. Be someone’s ‘Networking Hero’: Realize that likely over 90% of the people at the networking event or conference feel as uncomfortable as you do.
If you see someone standing off on their own trying to hide behind the coffee maker or the plants, be compassionate towards them: reach out with a smile and a handshake and help them feel more at ease. They’ll be thrilled that you took interest and made a kind gesture.
2. Make your networking efforts about ‘them’ (the people you meet): Set out to connect with people, find out more about their interests and needs. Explain how you can help them. Most of us want to help others, so this may feel better and more natural for you than approaching networking with a ‘selling’ mindset.
A great way to communicate what you offer is to answer the question about ‘What do you do?’ by beginning your ‘pitch’ with “I help people/professionals/organizations (be specific) to achieve/realize/make ____________ by offering/providing ________ (highlight your services, your skills, etc. that you offer).
Then simply let the conversation flow naturally.
3. Remember the ‘Two ears, One mouth’ rule: Great networkers listen 2X more than they speak. People appreciate when you listen to them. In addition, you will be able to create a better connection than if you did all the talking.
4. Get busy connecting other people to one another: Once people find out other’s interests, they sometimes feel stuck or awkward if they feel they can’t help them.
If you are not the right person to help your new contact, chances are that you know someone who can – so be a connector and help two people by making an intro. (See the article about 9 Networking Secrets from a Super Connector below)
5. Don’t worry too much about what you are going to say, focus on learning: Rather than worry about what you are going to say next, focus on asking great questions.
It is a good idea to research and prepare for networking events as suggested in the article. If you approach networking from a learning perspective, you’ll enter into a completely new realm of ‘feel good networking’ and it will show through in your behaviours and how you interact with others.
6. It is ‘quality,’ not ‘quantity’ that counts: You don’t need to meet every single person at an event.
Rather, focus on meeting a few really great people (2-4) and exchange information so that you can connect afterwards. Make sure you have some business cards handy and that you ask the people you meet for theirs.
LinkedIn is a great tool to follow-up after the event and stay connected with the people you meet. You can then leverage your network by asking for people to meet for a coffee to continue your conversation on topics of mutual interest.
7. Show up as the ‘real you,’ not as a ‘job seeker’: Take the pressure off yourself and the people you meet. Take a genuine interest in others – they will have a genuine interest in you. Show up as a peer looking to learn and also to share your knowledge and experience to help others.
The irony is that the less pushy you are about trying to get people to hire you at networking events, the better the chances they could eventually help you land a job.