We all know that networking is a very useful skill, with the benefits well documented; however, for some of us, it can be the hardest part of our job and something we find very stressful.
If you are uncomfortable with networking and meeting new people, try to remember that it can take many different forms and it is worth exploring the types of situation you might be more comfortable with; for example, it may be that you would prefer to connect with people on a one-to-one basis rather than in a large group in a very social setting.
If this the case, consider how you might achieve this; for example, you could reach out to them on social media first or email them directly to arrange to meet for a coffee.
It is also worth understanding what you are hoping to achieve from networking. Are you simply looking for new business leads or are you reaching out to find a mentor or new employment opportunities?
Your objectives will have a bearing on the type of networking situations that are likely to work best for you and the type of people you should be networking with. If you have a number of objectives you are hoping to achieve, try to prioritise them and work on them one or two at a time.
Once you have determined what you are trying to achieve and the type of networking you feel most comfortable with, you should determine how you are going to approach these situations. As with most situations, preparation is often key.
As with a job interview or an exam, being knowledgeable about your subject is a great way to relieve your nerves and can help to make you feel more comfortable.
You may wish to prepare an elevator pitch about yourself or your role. Researching the people you are meeting or the business they are in can also help you to prepare a few well-thought-out questions you might like to ask, which will help to get the conversation started.
Most of all, be yourself and pick the situations and conversations that you are comfortable with. Very few of us can successfully fly by the seat of our pants and make it up as we go along, so trying to be something you are not can land you in hot water and make for an excruciating meeting.
Finally, remember that networking is rarely a one-off opportunity – forging new relationships takes time and you do not need to try to cram everything into your first meeting.
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