Whether you’re just starting your first job out of college or the CEO of a large company, networking plays an important role in any career.
As you move up the ladder, networking helps you meet new and find out about upcoming opportunities. Once you’ve climbed that ladder, networking helps you find the right people to fill the roles beneath you, to discover fresh talent and connect with employees you really enjoy.
Some networking takes place online, through sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. But much of it still occurs face-to-face, at parties, industry events, working lunches and more.
These provide excellent opportunities to meet new people and exchange ideas. Still, for shy people, networking can also bring challenges.
It can be difficult to speak up at networking events if you’re shy—and even the most outgoing among us experience moments of shyness.
That’s perfectly natural, and perfectly addressable. Here are a few ways to get more comfortable with networking if you are shy or uncertain about how to proceed.
Make Initial Contact Online
You may feel it’s easier to introduce yourself to someone electronically than in person. If you know the names of people who will be at an upcoming gathering, reach out online in advance. Relay a bit about yourself and say you’re looking forward to getting better acquainted at the event. When you get there, you will feel confident to introduce yourself in person.
Do Your Research Ahead of Time
If you’re in the tech industry, for instance, read up on tech subjects people at your event might be interested in. Come up with a few ice-breakers related to those topics ahead of time, such as, “What did you think about so-and-so’s recent article on [relevant topic]?” Ask follow-up questions, and you’ll find the conversation flowing easily.
Emphasize Quality Conversations
You don’t need to meet everyone at a party to engage in quality networking. A couple great interactions can be better than 10 meaningless chit-chats. Focus on quality over quantity.
Who says networking has to be a solo endeavor? Bring a wingman (or woman!) to help you feel more comfortable at the event. It could be a spouse, friend or co-worker.
This way you’ll have someone to talk to the entire time, which will keep you from making 30 solo trips to the punch bowl. Plus, your pal can help make introductions, getting you over the toughest part of a conversation for shy people.
Have you ever heard of “introvert hour?” That’s the nickname for the first hour of any event, which tends to be sparsely populated – most people arrive fashionably late. Get there early, and you’ll find just a handful of people milling around, which makes it easier to start a conversation. In fact, you may find everyone naturally stands together early on, a perfect starting ground for you.
Networking can help you forge connections that help your career for years to come. Follow these tips to make the process a little easier at your next event.
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