Written by Kiersten Leone, Social Media Content Intern at MSM DesignZ.
Networking can be a scary word for most. A lot of people hate small talk, which many think networking is, and the idea of it makes them anxious. However, networking is so much more than small talk! It’s an important duty that must be done to push you forward in your career.
For some people, the second they go to an interview, -or into a room of professionals- they choke up. That 30 second “elevator pitch” slips their mind, and it almost feels like they can’t even remember their own name. Believe me, we all have been there. Talking to someone who could give you a job you’ve been hoping for, or to renowned people in your field is intimidating. You want to put your best foot forward, but it can be hard if you haven’t had enough experience networking, or talking to professionals in general.
There are many benefits to networking such as more opportunities, increased confidence, gaining advice, and raising your profile. So grab a notepad, and learn more about the benefits of networking, and how you can become a networking aficionado.
Getting more opportunities is a given. The more people you talk to, is going to put more opportunities onto your radar. You should always try to hand out your business cards, as well as take theirs to make the connection. After you take their business card, put it in a safe spot. Write down about the person, so in the future the information is there if you need it. Also, the person you are talking to may not have what you need, but they probably have someone in their arsenal of connections that can help you. After all, it’s not what you know, but who you know!
When you continually talk to people in your industry, you will become more confident. Being confident is so important in the business world because people expect you to know what you’re talking about, and if you do you’re going to look great! Your self-esteem will sky rocket when people start coming to you for opinion and ideas because you’ve proven you know what you’re talking about.
When speaking with people in the same business sector as you, you’re more than likely have a wealth of knowledge standing right in front of you. Whether it’s advice on working in that particular industry, or personal advice -like being able to keep a healthy work-life balance,- they’ve got answers to your questions! Even if the person you are speaking with only has one more year of experience than you, that’s still one more year of wisdom they carry and can hand off to you. They can also offer you success stories as well as mistakes they have made that you can avoid down the line.
Bounce Ideas Off People
Along with advice, you can bounce your ideas off of people. If you have a great proposal for an upcoming project that could get you a raise or promotion you’ve been waiting for, you can ask other professionals in that area what they think of it. They can play devil’s advocate, and help you fine tune any weaknesses. Plus, it’s a great way to share knowledge and engage in a conversation that you’re extremely passionate about.
Now go out and network!
All those networking opportunities sound great, but now you might be thinking to yourself “I really want all those things for myself, but I’m still way too nervous to go to any networking event!” That is why the second part of this blog will revolve around ways to overcome your fear of networking!
First and foremost, RELAX! This is not the end of the world. Take a deep breath, listen to an empowering song, do anything you need to do to come back to Earth. If you still can’t relax enough to go up to someone, look approachable. Smile, don’t cross your arms, and put down your phone!
Scan the room for groups of three or more
Once you’ve relaxed, start scanning the room for people to talk to. Mainly stick to people in groups of three or more. This is because two people may be engaged in a serious conversation that you can’t join, flirting, or just want to keep the conversation between two. People in bigger groups already show they are more friendly, making it easier to walk over and join. At that point you can keep quiet and listen- although we recommend you engage in the conversation at any point you can.
Come Up With a List of Questions
If you find yourself in a one on one conversation, make sure you have some backup questions incase the conversation falls flat. Prepare a list of questions in your head or on a piece of paper that you can casually glance at if you think you will forget. People love to talk about themselves and what they say might spark something else you can talk about!
Join Meetup Groups
If you’re still feeling nervous about the whole networking thing, try joining a meetup group. These groups will allow you to become more comfortable talking to people in general. People who sign up for these groups go for the purpose of networking and meeting new people, so you can’t think you’re bugging them with your conversation.
Bottom line: You need to network at some point, and the earlier you start the better. It’s almost like ripping off a bandaid. The slower you get out there, the more painful it will be. You have to just rip off the bandaid, get out there, and show them what you’ve got to give!