Networking for people who don’t like networking
Anyone who has met me would probably be surprised to find out that I hate networking. I don’t like knowing I’m going to have to make conversation, find something interesting and/or funny to talk about and make new connections. Once I’m at an event and forced into it, I’m totally fine and I’m aware I come across as outgoing and chatty. It’s the thought of it that makes me nervous.
I know there are recruiters who probably feel the same way. Your boss has told you to go to a local event, or one of the big recruitment industry shows…and you just aren’t looking forward to it. How can you best prepare so you aren’t a nervous wreck the night before, and can look forward to meeting new people? I’ve got a few suggestions. Nothing necessarily new, just things that work for me.
Dress to impress
Make sure you look and feel good. I don’t mean going for a full-on makeover, just make sure you are wearing something you feel good in. Perhaps a suit that makes you feel empowered or an outfit you’ve had compliments on when you’ve worn it previously. Walking into a room full of people can be daunting, but being well presented and feeling good can give you the confidence boost you might need.
Break the ice
Pay someone a compliment. It’s seems so simple, but it’s something I’ve done a lot and it’s started many conversations. Granted, I think this can be easier for women to do but, once you try, it really is the easiest thing in the world. People love compliments; ‘great shoes’, ‘sharp suit’, ‘amazing tie’ etc. Just make sure it’s genuine and heartfelt.
Other people will be feeling like you. Say ‘Good morning’ to someone at the coffee counter. Ask if they know anyone at the event. Chances are, they will be grateful for someone to talk to. If it’s an event with different sessions, ask if they are going to the same ones you have selected, or if they have any suggestions. It doesn’t matter if the conversation doesn’t go very far, but you’ve made it easy for the other person, and you never know which direction it will head.
Don’t sit alone
This one is tempting to do, and I have been guilty of it in the past especially during lunch breaks. Don’t pick the empty table. Go for the table where others are already sitting. Ask if you can join them. You don’t have to bring amazing conversation, especially if they already have a topic on the go. Just join in when you can, if it makes sense for you. If you have nothing to say, you can always comment on the food selection (good or bad)!
In an age where Generation Z are entering the workforce and combining with Millennials, using social media for communication is a given. A well organised event will usually have a Twitter hashtag created and often use it ahead of the event. This is a great way to start connecting with people even before you meet them in person. Use the hashtag to let others know you will be there, that you are looking forward to the event and so on. You might find that you already follow people who are also attending.
Once you have made some new connections at the event, don’t just ask for their business card. Ask if they are on Twitter too. Connect with them on LinkedIn, and make sure to personalise your invitation and remind them that you just met at the networking event.
Relax and breathe
Finally, remember that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t speak to anyone. However, if it’s part of your job, you might not be able to get away with silence for too long! Just work on building up your confidence and aim to make five connections at an event to start with. Once you get in to it, it’s actually fun!
We don’t like to be judged by others, and putting ourselves in a vulnerable situation like meeting strangers can feel uncomfortable. Learn to fake it, but don’t be fake. Smile, and remember that even those who appear the most confident are sometimes nervous and anxious inside.
Category: Sales & Marketing