Have you ever found yourself to be socially awkward in a nightmarish room full of professionals? You feel so out of place and every conversation feels almost as though you’re openly asking your boss for a raise? Yes, it is perfectly normal to feel that way when you’re spun into an activity such as networking. No it’s not just you, many of us feel the same as well! Thank God you’re not alone!
‘Tis a word that even extroverts would cringe at: NETWORKING.
However, to advance further in your career, this inevitable hell of a situation must somehow be used to your advantage. Not everyone though, can master the art of networking and feel comfortable or look natural at it.
You know the saying, ‘Fake it till you make it’? As much as you can pretend that you have the confidence and charisma, if it is ‘fake’, it will slip through the cracks and reveal the phony you are. So how do you not FEEL FAKE therefore not BE FAKE?
This is why we are here to guide you on how to network without feeling like a fake:
1. Talk About Things You Like, Not Those You Pretend To
Rather than pretending to be interested in something you’re not – why not play at this in your comfort zone? Don’t pretend to know about yachts or golf or even faking your allegiance to Manchester United (ugh!) Engage with those whom you already know share common interests as you do.
Keeping people at ease knowing that they have shared interests with you will open up professional conversations afterwards. And how do you know that person shares the same interests you do? Which brings us to the next point…
2. Utilize Social Media, Information Is Key
We won’t judge you by calling you a stalker – instead, we ENCOURAGE you to be one! If you know you want to make an impression on this certain person at this conference, first – run a check on LinkedIn and other social media networks. Doing research on that person (or a few different people) can help you break the ice besides building up your own confidence! Information is half the battle!
Also, after making that connection, don’t let the trail run cold. Follow them or the companies that interest you on LinkedIn or Facebook. Comment on their news feeds or business blogs. This helps build your social presence and increases the chances of you getting noticed by the companies and their recruiters.
3. Don’t Be Someone You Are Not, Don’t Fake Out
You are most fake when you are pretending to be someone you’re not – and you know it. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t take an extrovert to succeed professionally at work. If mingling in large groups of people or being loud isn’t the way you are most comfortable interacting, instead have one-on-one sessions. One-on-one sessions can help you slowly break into the mode of being conversational and soon, who knows, you might be swinging your way around the room! Being natural will boost not only your confidence but it also encourages others to be comfortable around you.
4. Have a Positive Mindset, Others Can Feel The Positivity!
You are networking… because you HAVE to. Whether you like it or not, however – that’s another issue. Putting your own mindset into perspective can determine your degree of success in networking! If your mind is set that you see networking as a chore or a bad platform to show your weaknesses, it’s likely you will fail. And fail BADLY it is. However, by thinking positive and using this as a platform for improvement or growth, you will also network positively and that kind of vibe will shine through.
5. Identifying The Win-Win, And Make It Happen!
Work relationships are like any other ordinary relationships – it takes time and effort to build. However, strong professional relationships are built on the foundation that it’s mutually beneficial for both parties! Instead of thinking what that person can do for you, think first about what YOU can do for THEM.
It doesn’t have to be something big, but even something personal like a good vet recommendation or a caterer’s contact. Trust us, it can go a long way. Offering a little extra help will instead make you stand out – they’ll remember your kind deed for them when you need their assistance to pass along your resume in the future.
So, there you have it. Just a few pointers to get out there, and as cliche as the saying may be, ‘believe in yourself’ and the fake-ness will not fester as much. And of course, do remember to network genuinely! Nobody likes a phony. And yes, may the force be with you.