Frequently DuMore is asked to help job seeking graduate students get more comfortable with, and better strategize their business networking. The content we will share in this article was used for first time job seekers, but also applies to early/mid career and even executive level learners seeking to expand their network.
Our introduction to the workshop often exposes that many of them have anxiety about the very idea of “networking”.
Perhaps it’s because of the fear of the unknown and how these events might be managed. Or simply not being confident in their abilities to pitch themselves or even more scary, how to engage in small talk where they don’t know anyone.
First of all, let’s define why networking really is – “it’s the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”.
So we will now share some simple advice on most common fears people have about networking.
- What if I don’t know what to say?
- Read up on up on the news and pick 5 different “safe” topics to discuss.
- Keep those top of mind between conversations.
- Discuss the venue or the organization hosting the event.
- What if people there aren’t interested in the same things as me?
- No problem! There may be attendees who know people in your industry or you might know people who can be helpful to them.
- Don’t think of a networking event as “instant gratification”. The point is not to get a particular need met right away. If you help someone else now, they may return the favor.
- Use the fact that having different interests is actually a conversation starter itself.
- What if I get stuck talking to someone?
- You’re free to excuse yourself after a brief exchange.
- Say something simple like, “Well, it was really nice talking with you. I should make sure to mingle with everyone here to make the most out of this event.”
- Exchange business cards if you want, but don’t make promises of connecting later unless they’re genuine.
- If you’re stuck, you can also invite a passerby into the conversation as a way to segue out.
- What if I’m just nervous?
- Practice breathing techniques in advance.
- Choose small and manageable goals before hand (I must talk to at least 3 people).
- Vocal warm-ups are good, especially if you haven’t spoken all day.
- Acknowledge your feelings and recognize them as a form of “nervous excitement”, then turn your focus to the people around you.
Whether you are hoping to land that dream job, expand your connections within your own organization, or explore a different industry or career path, we hope that these tips from DuMore will help reduce your fear and get you out there networking!