If you’re someone who has struggled to get jobs, keep jobs or earn promotions, the problem might not be lack of skills or experience. Personal connections can often mean the difference between a stalled career and one that fulfills your highest aspirations. Developing the social skills and communication skills necessary to connect with other people in a meaningful way is key to building a personal brand that attracts interest and gets you where you want to go.
Taking the Sting Out of Networking
For most of us, the word networking is synonymous with the word “schmoozing.” We hear it and immediately feel sick. We think the primary goal is to impress people, and then we tie ourselves in knots, worrying that we’re not doing a good enough job.
When I first started networking, I was completely uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it and often left events feeling even more awkward and unsure than I did before I went. I have clients who refuse to network because they’re afraid that they won’t meet anyone, that no one will want to talk to them, or that if someone does approach then, they’ll have nothing to say.
They forget that the simple goal at a networking event is to connect. The easiest way to do that is to take the focus off yourself and put it on the people around you.
Why is Networking So Hard?
For most of us, our issues with networking are tied up in self-limiting beliefs. Maybe you’re not happy with your physical appearance, or you worry that you haven’t achieved enough in your career. Whatever your reason, it’s impossible to make meaningful connections if you don’t feel comfortable in your skin.
We live in a very judgmental society, so it’s natural to fear that other people might have negative opinions about you. But the truth is, even if someone is judging you, it doesn’t matter. As Dr. Wayne Dyer, likes to say, “Don’t worry about the good opinion of others.” How rich and interesting your life is matters significantly less than your mental state when making conversation.
In other words, when you’re comfortable just being yourself, you talk about your life with an ease that draws people in, regardless of the content.
Simple Ways To Connect With Others at Your Next Networking Event
You can develop your social skills so that connecting with people becomes more comfortable over time. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Do your homework: If you struggle with the basic principles of interaction, there are plenty of books and courses out there that can help you.
- Prepare: Know the environment and dress the part. If you feel good about what you’re wearing, you’ll be more comfortable interacting with people.
- Assert yourself with confidence: Make eye contact and shake hands. Introduce yourself first rather than waiting for others to come to you.
- Ask questions: Take the focus off of yourself and put it on the other person. People love to talk about themselves, so be curious and draw them out.
- Steer clear of work talk: Ask about family, hobbies, or vacation plans. Find commonalities. Once you’ve developed a rapport, you’ll be able to relax.
Remember, networking isn’t about blurting out your resume bullet points or only talking to people who you think can help you: it’s about making an authentic human connection.
If you’re worried that poor social skills or fear of networking are hurting your personal brand, contact me.