Networking doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Feel anxiety the moment you enter a room full of people you don’t know? Or worry about what you’ll say to the person you sit next to? Take a deep breath and join the club, because you’re not alone.
LinkedIn revealed a majority of millennial professionals agree that networking is valuable professionally, but struggle with what to say and how to get in touch with connections. You can learn to overcome networking fears with these simple, yet powerful strategies.
1. Reconnect with people you’ve already met.
Networking is much more than meeting new people constantly. Staying connected with the people you’ve already met is critical to maintaining a strong network. Take a small step forward by messaging someone you haven’t spoken with recently. Remind them of how you met and share a fun fact related to something you talked about.
Take note of professional anniversary notifications on LinkedIn and send a thoughtful note. Share something you have in common like your alma mater or a common interest. Bonus points for passing along an article relevant to their field. There are plenty of opportunities to catch up with previously made connections.
2. Invite a friend of a friend.
Bringing a close friend to a networking event can make stepping out of your comfort zone much easier. Hey, there’s power in numbers. By taking this strategy one step further and encouraging your friend to invite a friend, you’ll be able to make another strong connection.
In his book Friend of a Friend, David Burkus reveals that weaker connections, like a friend of a friend, are likely to have access to new information and resources your strongest ties don’t. By inviting your close friend to a networking event and encouraging her to bring someone you don’t know, you will both feel more comfortable and grow your network in a powerful way.
3. Take part in non-traditional activities.
While meet-and-greet networking events are a valuable way to make new connections, you can also grow your network by attending events that aren’t quite so traditional. 59% of millennials actually prefer non-traditional networking.
Central Exchange offers countless opportunities to meet like-minded women in non-traditional ways. At Girl’s Night Out, women come together to enjoy dining at a trendy restaurant with old and new CX friends. Prefer connecting digitally? Access career-building programs from the comfort of your desk with virtualCX. Central Exchange hosts a wide range of events to help you cultivate empowering relationships in a comfortable environment
4. Embrace introvert tendencies.
If you consider yourself an introvert, you may think you’re not meant for networking. But Karen Wickre, author of Taking the Work Out of Networking, teaches the very opposite. As an introvert, you are a natural at listening, observing and being curious. These three things can make you better at networking than your peers!
Being an introvert is no longer an excuse to avoid networking — it’s a reason to embrace it. Your introvert tendencies can help you see the core of those around you and connect with them on a deeper level. Now is the time to set your networking fears aside and step out as the empowered woman you are.
5. Focus on a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck is renowned for her research on the growth mindset: the belief people have that they can learn and develop themselves to be better. Picture the Little Engine that Could — when you think you can, you’re likely to achieve what you’re chasing. This mindset contrasts with those who have a fixed mindset, people who see themselves as static and unable to grow.
With a growth mindset, you’ll be able to let go of your networking fears and focus on your exciting ability to learn. Try seeing the people around you as potential teachers with wisdom and knowledge you’ve yet to uncover. You won’t feel as nervous when you’re focused on what you can learn rather than how you might fail.
6. Give more than you get.
Coming into networking events with the purpose of being of service to others will help you let go of your fears. When you feel at peace with the value you provide to those around you, you’ll feel a greater sense of belonging and inner-joy.
Research shows when you feel like you have nothing to give, you’re less likely to want to participate in networking. In reality, you have more to offer than you think. By focusing on the intangible things you have to offer, like support and recognition, you can give in a very powerful way. A public display of gratitude or a unique insight is a priceless gift to give mentors and fellow professionals.
Ready to test these powerful networking strategies? Come network with Central Exchange! Connect with professional women just like you at one of our upcoming events.