Updated: Dec 17, 2018
“Networking” … it’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many. For some, it feels like an awkward social obligation where you’re just counting down the minutes ‘til it’s over. For others, it feels too self-serving where you find yourself listening to someone talk about how awesome they are and why you should care more about what they do; thanks, but no thanks.
The truth is, networking can be whatever you want it to be, you just need to learn how to navigate. It takes a village to build a successful career, no matter what field you’re in. It has the potential to open career opportunities and build mutually beneficial connections. If you’re going to do it, why not make it worth your while. Here are a few ways to start:
Finding a Networking Event
How do people find networking events? We’re glad you asked. Start by looking on meetup.com or Eventbrite. These services are free and make it easy for you to search by topic and location. Reach out to a local organization to see if they have any events scheduled. If you can’t find any events near you, hop onto social media. Search Facebook for existing groups themed around your interest and start interacting with those members. You can even post to your friends and followers to initiate a meet up or start your own group. Search for different hashtags on Instagram and Twitter – comment or tweet on posts that make sense for you. Networking can take many forms. There is no right way to way to do, you just have to seek out what works best for you.
The Buddy System
So, you’ve signed up to go to a networking event where you know absolutely no one. It’s nerve wracking and can be really intimidating. Good thing there’s the buddy system. Enlist a friend, fellow student, or colleague to go with you. Having an ally in the room who shares the same goals as you can be an instant confidence boost. They can help you stay accountable to your goals and keep the conversation going in a larger group. Rule of thumb if you do bring someone, make sure you talk to other event attendees and not just each other.
There are no shortage of events. When looking to attend an event, be strategic and deliberate about what you attend. Focus on spending your time at events that interest you. Research what organizations and people will be there. It’s not about how many people you meet, it’s about who you meet. Your time is valuable, make sure that the event is worth the while.
You don’t need to be a big shot director or showrunner to be successful at networking. All you need to do is be your authentic self and open to new experiences. These events can bring a plethora of new opportunities to those who are looking. Sometimes that one connection you made years ago pulls through when you least expect it. After all, a 2017 survey by LinkedIn revealed that 85% of all jobs are filled by networking.
Fostering New Connections
So, you’ve exchanged contact information and made some great connections, now what? The first thing you should do is follow-up the next day. Reach out with a thank you email; even set up a coffee date. Stay curious about what they’re doing and look for ways to support or collaborate with one another. Check in every once and while. The more time and energy you put into fostering your relationships, the more beneficial they’ll be.
Fear of Rejection
What if I don’t live up to someone’s expectation? I won’t be able to think of anything to say. If I’m alone, people will make fun of me. The good news is, you’re not the only one thinking this. These types of thoughts are very common and we can assure you, you’re not the only one in the room who feels this way. Meeting complete strangers can feel weird and put a lot of pressure on someone. Take a deep breath before you walk into your event and ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? Someone says they can’t get coffee… great, onto the next one (though, we doubt this would ever happen). Remember, people who attend these events want to be helpful. They want to connect with like-minded people. Start small by meeting one or two people at your first event and work your way up. The more events you attend, the more your fear of rejection will go away.
Lastly, remember you’ve got this.
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