“To the degree we’re not living our dreams, our comfort zone has more control over us than we have over ourselves” – Peter McWilliams
Have you ever landed a job where you’re suddenly expected to do something that wasn’t in the job description handed to you?
Networking is exactly that. It’s a hidden job description for all our ‘hats.’ It’s needed in getting projects done, landing the next job, gaining a coveted promotion, acquiring clients, finding potential partners and even finding your go-to hairdresser, organic shop, coolest pub, etc. Networking is THE way bonds are formed and stories get communicated and humans are wired to connect and learn best from stories. But why is it so dreadful for a lot of us?
I’ve recently been consulted by coaching clients specifically for help in this area. “How can I approach a stranger comfortably?” “How do I make the first step?” “I fear this and that…”
I personally find networking both dreadful and enjoyable. Many who know me will call me a “social butterfly” but like many others, I also get the jitters. The beginning is always a bit nerve racking especially when I see people have already clustered together. But once I’m in, I can wing it. Luckily!
“So if I’m not the only one with the networking nerves, perhaps then I can do it???… But do I really need to network?” Yes, I heard your thoughts.
Only you can answer that.
Because of the dread for networking, some of us may have missed opportunities, delayed transitions, and missed the necessary step to get an important thing done. I suppose it’s not what you want in the long run?
So how is networking done? Is it only by jumping into a den full of strangers like a prey being devoured by all your doubts, potential awkward remarks you might utter and feared negative reactions? No, it does not have to be that unpleasant or brutal.
Here are ways and insights to ‘un-dread’ the dreadful networking.
When have I been most persuasive, clearest when I communicate?
For me, it’s when I speak one-on-one with people or when I have an audience. These are my ways to truly connect. One-on-one because I’m a good listener and I can connect well with people in this level. Speaking and facilitating are the other ways because they’re both my strongest suits and I feel more comfortable coming from a place of knowledge. So when is yours?
There is no point copying what others do when it’s not comfortable for you. How can you be effective when you’re not having fun?
Ask for an introduction
Not only this is an easier way of getting the other person to agree to have coffee with you, this is also a great way to establish a connection. You already somehow share a story and you are being referred by a person with hopefully a good reputation. It eases your entry by approaching the meeting as not being a complete stranger and neither is the other person for you.
Look for like minded people
One of the ways to make networking not such a big step to make is to do it from a place of specific interest. Is there an organization/person that shares the same values as you have or have the same goals as you do? Are there groups/meet ups that specifically happen for a hobby/activity/workshop that you feel enthusiastic about?? Networking doesn’t have to be so random. Next time you are faced with the fear of starting a conversation, ask yourself this, what could possibly be the reason why others are there? Probably, same as you are.
Everyone has hesitations
Understand this – you are not alone. We all have hesitations in approaching strangers in different degrees but some of us are just already better at managing it. Again, you’re not alone. When the jitters start to come, outpace it. Look for friendly faces or a new comer who’s still free for a small chat and build your energy from there. Remember, small steps.
Let the crowd come to you
If I prefer one-on-one chats, I’d either give a free intake or email someone for a one-on-one meeting. And as I prefer to come from a place of knowledge, I organize events and then connect with people then. Get creative and make this opportunities happen.
There are many ways to connect and share similar stories – which is networking broken down. When you find your common grounds, bonds are formed and likeability of cooperation is increased. When you think of it this way, it sounds more pleasant and less terrifying. Aside from these tips, the best way to get out the most from a networking is to be as purposeful as you can. And, set an intention to have fun!