Years ago I went to a networking meeting and the speaker’s topic was none other than networking. At the beginning of her talk, she asked the group of about 75 women “how many of you enjoy networking?” - I was one of maybe FIVE that raised their hand.
While I really do like to network, I also know (and coach) SO many women who do not. Showing up at an event, mingling with strangers and answering the dreaded question “what do you do?” is awkward at best and torturous at worst…and when we dread something, we tend to avoid it.
The problem with avoiding networking is that it’s literally the best way to build your business, get a new job or advance your career. While we’re lucky to have so many ways to connect and grow professionally online, nothing beats the directness and immediacy of being face-to-face while doing business.
So here are 3 ways to make networking a bit more comfortable.
Choose your groups carefully
Whether you’re doing informal networking or investing in a paid membership, be sure to attend a meeting or two to see how things work before committing.
Some groups have formal structures and guidelines while others are more relaxed and open. Some require an investment (leads groups, for example) and others are free (like Meetup groups).
What matters more than the format is WHO is in the group and whether they represent your target market or can help you in your career.
Plus you always want to feel a fit with the leader and others who attend. The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to open up, be authentic and share yourself in a way that feels good.
Become a regular
Once you’ve found some groups that work for you, be sure you go to meetings on a regular basis. The biggest challenge I see with networkers are those who join or attend too many groups or those who attend too sporadically.
My rule of thumb is to only join groups that you know you’ll attend consistently…because solid relationships and growth opportunities develop over time. It’s also much easier to show up to a meeting when you already know people so you can actually mix and mingle with friends and strangers alike.
Let yourself be nervous
It’s funny that women are great at relationship building but we often get scared when we’re connecting professionally with a purpose.
I’ve had clients share stories of freezing up when it’s their chance to talk, fleeing a meeting because they feel so awkward or judging themselves harshly for not being relaxed, funny or "smart enough" in groups.
Even though I like networking and have done it for years, my heart still pounds when it’s my turn to speak!
You have to give yourself a chance (and often another and another) to get used to talking powerfully and authentically - and it’s completely OK to be nervous. Time and practice help and soon sharing who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for (with complete strangers) feels normal.
Just don’t give up :).
Want to network in your pajamas?
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