Do you hate networking? These tips can help
Not everyone enjoys networking. If you’re shy or introverted, it can be a nightmare. But the truth is that since people we don’t know usually move in different circles from ourselves, they’re integral to hearing about opportunities that would otherwise pass us by.
Fortunately, you don’t have to force yourself to become an extrovert in order to meet new people. Here are some tips that can help even the shyest person network effectively:
- Use the “loose touch” strategy. In her BBC Capital article “Networking for people who hate to network,” Karen Wickre advises starting with people you already know. For example, if you’ve worked with a project team in the past, try sending those people a quick message on LinkedIn or another social media platform. If you stay in touch now and then, it’s much easier to approach someone when you really need their help.
- Use every event to network. Networking doesn’t just occur at industry events — it can just as easily happen at the gym or your neighbour’s cookout. As long as you keep in mind that you and any new person you meet might be able to help each other one day, you can quickly get to meet many new contacts without forcing the situation.
- Arrive early. The beginning of any event — whether it’s someone’s birthday party or a mixer — is always the quietest. And that’s often when it’s easiest to strike up a conversation with other people.
- Smile. In her CIO article “How to network: 17 tips for shy people,” Meridith Levinson reminds us that if you have a serious or unhappy look on your face, you become more difficult to approach. People are more likely to want to talk to you if you smile and look open to meeting others.
- Set a goal of meeting three new people. In his Forbes article “Nine Networking Tips for Very Shy People,” James Nichols recommends setting yourself a goal to meet a certain number of new people. Remember: Everyone goes to a networking event to make new contacts, so everyone will be open to talking with you. And once you’ve met your target number of people, you can leave if you’re very uncomfortable.
- Ask questions. This is a great strategy if you’re very shy, since almost everyone likes to talk about themselves or their work. Ask about the other person’s company or the project they’re working on, listen actively — and you won’t have to say much yourself.
- Have a topic ready. Before the event, give some thought about what you feel comfortable discussing. It can be anything from your current focus at work to an industry article you just read, so long as it gives you sufficient room to talk about it for a couple of minutes.
Let’s face it: If you’re shy or introverted, networking might never become one of your favorite activities. But with these tips and a little practice, you can become proficient enough at it to expand your network so it benefits your career.