Developing Your Career

Developing Your Career

Seven Foolproof Strategies for Reluctant Networkers

By Greg Simpson on April 21, 2014

Do you approach networking with trepidation? Most people recognize the benefits of maintaining networking connections throughout their careers—such as referrals, introductions, information, visibility with hiring managers, credentialing, and a direct channel to potential opportunities.  But many struggle with a lack of confidence or lack of skill in this nuanced art.

Networking is too important to let your own anxiety hold you back. Here are seven tips to help quell the discomfort of being a reluctant networker:

  1. Prepare.  Do some research so that you’re properly prepared for a networking meeting.  Check social media sites and Google your networking contact so you have some insight into who they are.
  2. Practice.  Are you comfortable and confident delivering your 30-second commercial? Practice so that it sounds natural and authentic.
  3. Begin close to home.  Start your networking with close colleagues, friends and family and then work your connections through social media.  Networking “close to home” will build your confidence and help you get comfortable.
  4. Set expectations and deadlines.  Give yourself goals and set realistic deadlines for conducting networking conversations.  Plan to conduct at least two meetings a week.  LHH research shows that, on average, job hunters make contact with 25 different decision makers on the way to accepting a job offer from one of them.
  5. Attend networking events, and get there early.  Arrive at networking events early when the group is still small.  It’s easier to initiate a conversation one-on-one when you’re not wading into a crowd where people have already begun conversations.
  6. Have some open-ended questions prepared.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Ask questions that give them an opportunity to tell you about themselves.  Some good questions to ask include, “How did you get involved in your field?” “What’s changed in this field over the years?”  “What are some trends you see emerging in your field?”
  7. Connect with people through shared interests.  Get involved in professional organizations or community groups.  It’s always easier to strike up a conversation with someone who shares a common interest.

Most importantly, maintain your optimism while networking.  Remind yourself you’ll be meeting interesting people, learning more about your local market, and having a good time—and you will.

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