How to Network Like a Pro–Even If You’re Shy, Introverted, or Really Just Hate Doing It

nervous-womanThe ability to network – to develop contacts and personal connections with a variety of people who might be helpful to you and your career – is a critical skill for any of us. A deep and varied network of trusted colleagues can help when searching for new business partners, when seeking investment opportunities, when looking for sources of capital or opportunities to develop your own skills, or even when looking for another job.

But chatting up strangers at a networking event isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, it can be so terrifying for some people that they avoid networking events altogether. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some simple and effective tips you can use immediately to turn networking into a strength, rather than something you fear and avoid.

1. Bring a Friend

One simple, but very effective tip is to bring a friend. This can help in a number of ways. First, it can often help you get the event itself (instead of coming up with reasons to avoid it). And then at the event, it’s nice to have a go-to person you can lean on for introductions or even just as a friendly face in case conversations elsewhere start to dry up. Of course, you don’t want to lean on a friend too much during the event, because in some ways that defeats the purpose. But used judiciously, a friend can be a tremendous asset and is often the first thing I suggest to people afraid of networking.

2. Have a Reasonable Goal

Don’t feel you need to “work the room” and collect 50 business cards. Instead, keep your goals realistic. Decide as a goal that you want to make two or three good connections during the event – and then everything else is gravy. I find that having a reasonable goal like this makes networking much more doable for people who worry about their ability to ‘work a room.’

3. Find Times of the Day that Work Best for You

Not all of us are early birds – so that 7am before work networking event might just not be your cup of tea. Perhaps you do better in the evening – in which case, you should look for those types of events to go to. The point is to know when you’ll likely be at your best and at your most comfortable and make that knowledge work for you.

4. Find Events that Fit Your Personality

If you get intimidated by huge events, don’t go to them, unless you absolutely have to (and in that case use tip #1 and bring a friend). Perhaps small events are more your cup of tea. And if so, seek those out instead.

5. Reward Yourself for Taking the Leap

And then finally… reward yourself at the end for doing something outside your comfort zone. Take that walk with your friend. Do some yoga. Have a drink – or lunch – or a snack at your favorite restaurant. Whatever it is — do something rejuvenating and rewarding because you deserve it!

You may never love networking. But if you can learn to make the types of minor adjustments I describe above, you might end up surprising yourself.

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 How to Act Outside Your Comfort Zone to Achieve Your Career Goals

man-leaving-comfort-zone.jpgYou need to speak in public, but your knees buckle even before you reach the podium. You want to expand your network, but you’d rather swallow nails than make small talk with strangers. Speaking up in meetings would further your reputation at work, but…

An easy response to these types of professionally important (but personally terrifying) situations is avoidance. Who wants to feel anxious when you don’t have to? But the problem, of course, is that these tasks aren’t just unpleasant; they’re also necessary.

Listen to Andy Molinsky’s session of ExecuNet Master Class to hear him explain how to succeed outside your comfort zone… and take your career to the next level!

Andy Molinsky

Andy Molinsky

Andy Molinsky is a Professor at Brandeis University’s International Business School. Andy helps people develop the insights and courage necessary to act outside their personal and cultural comfort zones when doing important, but challenging, tasks in work and life. His work has been featured in HBR, the Financial Times, the Boston Globe, NPR and Voice of America. Andy Molinsky is the author of Reach and Global Dexterity. Visit here to receive Andy’s free guide to 10 cultural codes from around the world, and here for his very best tips on stepping outside your comfort zone at work.

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