“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I suppose if they told us that in high school, we’d have felt totally justified checking out of Algebra class to pass notes instead, but it is true! Of course, relying on others will only take you so far. You need to land a gig on your own and then perform well to keep your job or earn a promotion, but how do you get your foot in the door in a new industry or with a certain company? How do you find funding or the perfect marketing director for your new start-up? I got my start here at Catalyst Ranch when a current Ranch employee alerted me that the Ranch was hiring and suggested I would be a good fit. Doubly lucky for me, I also happened to know the HR Manager I sent my resume to from college! So, you see? It doesn’t hurt to know people!
That brings us to networking! Networking opportunities are everywhere, networking isn’t exclusively reserved for “networking” events, which sound nerve-wracking to some and just plain boring to others. You may find yourself networking at a birthday party or waiting in line at the coffee shop. (That’s why it is wise to always have breath mints and a supply of business cards with you at all times – you never know who you’ll meet!) If networking causes you a bit of anxiety, you aren’t alone! Here are a few tips to help you put your best foot forward and maybe even enjoy networking!
Find the right networking opportunity! There many types of networking events, so if you are a bit shy about breaking the ice, it might be better to attend an event with an educational component. When a portion of the time is spent listening to a lecture or participating in more structured activities, you have a chance to get comfortable before you start talking to strangers. Once you do start conversing, you’ll already have a shared topic to discuss with the other attendees. Feeling really shy? Consider volunteering at an event. If you are stationed where other guests will come to you, it is much easier to engage with other guests.
So, choose an event that suits your personality to get started, but you must get started! As an introverted homebody, I know how easy it is to talk yourself out of a networking opportunity. I won’t know anyone. I’m too tired. I don’t have anything to wear. It’s raining. Have a shot of espresso, grab your umbrella, call a cab, do whatever you have to do to get moving!
Rethink networking. Instead of viewing networking as a frightening or formal event, “view networking in the context of everyday interactions” as global recruiter Matthew Hill suggests. He makes another great point that makes networking less intimidating. “Networking is not to be confused with needing to be the life and soul of the party . . . networking isn’t always giving out 50 business cards at an event. It can be as simple as striking up a conversation with somebody who’s sitting next to you on the bus.” You might just want to practice starting conversations with strangers the next time you are on a bus!
For more tips on how to overcome your networking fears, check out this article.