Top tips for taking the pain out of networking…
Being able to network effectively, especially when you’re job hunting (up to 70% of roles are found through people we know) is an essential skill which can significantly boost your career prospects. We often hear, ‘It’s not what we know, but who we know!’, and yet having to put yourself out there and ‘mingle’ is one thing that many of my clients absolutely dread.
If, like many others, you too struggle with networking, here are my top tips:
Make it all about them
We are all the centre of our own universe and most people like nothing better than to talk about themselves. Therefore, GET INTERESTED! When we focus on others, it takes the pressure off us. Most people are more than happy to talk about themselves and will usually keep talking unless they are particularly self-aware or ‘people people’ and change the subject/ask about you.
Prepare some great questions
Pre-preparing some questions to ask others is a great way to ease those nerves. Consider:
- What do you do?
- Who do you work for?
- What do you love about your job?
- What are the challenges you/your company/your industry are facing?
- What drew you to this event?
Practise your elevator pitch
That sounds scary, but basically, be able to talk about yourself for around a minute. Include:
- Your job role
- Your employer
- Previous career history
- Why you’re there/what you’re hoping to learn
The more you practise talking about yourself, the easier it will be. When you get asked about yourself, if you are self-conscious, do your elevator pitch and then put the emphasis back to the other person by asking them another question. Again, it will take the focus away from you.
Use a Power Pose
In Amy Cuddy’s brilliant book, ‘Presence’, she has oodles of evidence that shows that holding a ‘power pose’ helps us perform better. Think of Superman/woman, i.e., stand for two minutes with hands on hips, feet apart, chin up, chest out, breathing deeply. When we do this, it releases a small shot of testosterone (ladies, not enough to give you a hairy chest!), which reduces nerves and helps us perform better. Incidentally, I’ve tried this out with clients who tend to experience excessive interview nerves and it works every time. Do it somewhere discrete before you enter the room.
(If you decide to try this, please avoid doing it in front of others as it can look a bit odd. I’m referencing the Tory party politicians here, who have apparently been told of the merits of the Power Pose but have got it horribly wrong.)
As our physiology affects our emotions (and vice versa), a big smile coupled with strong, confident body language will not only help you feel better but will make you more approachable. ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ can actually work.
Ask for an introduction
According to my clients, one of their biggest fears is walking into a room and having to interrupt people who are already in deep conversation. Talk to the organisers and ask them to introduce you to someone, or simply walk over to a group and smile, that’s usually a great opener. Most people will acknowledge you and draw you into the conversation. However, if they don’t, it’s unlikely to be anything to do with you, but merely that they are deep in discussion, and that happens to even the most experienced networkers. Don’t take it personally, slip away and approach another group.
Avoid using your phone
When we’re feeling a little insecure, I realise it’s easy to take out your phone and pretend to be busy. However, it’s pretty unlikely that anyone will approach you while you’re focused on your phone. Resist the urge. Smile and talk to people!
Like anything else, we get better at networking through practice. Get yourself out there, (practice makes perfect), expand your network and your career opportunities!