Regardless of the industry you’re involved in, networking is an essential activity that contributes directly to your success. Unless you’re a hardcore extrovert, networking and developing relationships with new people can be a bit daunting and/or anxiety evoking. Creating relationships with new people isn’t as easy as it was when we were young, when we could simply approach another kid on the playground and ask “will you be my friend”? However, making introductions with new people shouldn’t be as difficult as we make it out to be, and I’ll explain why.
1. Everyone at a networking event is interested in networking. Greeting someone to introduce yourself isn’t an imposition on their time, it is exactly what you both are there for. Humans have an inherent desire to interact with other humans, and no one wants to stand alone at a mixer. In fact, the person you want to approach may be feeling just as timid and overwhelmed as you are. Typically people will be glad for the interaction, and will welcome your greeting warmly.
2. Nothing terrible can happen. In fact, only positive things can happen as a result of introducing yourself to someone new. You are practicing your networking skills and learning new approaches (or maybe practicing approaches that you may want to adjust next time). Each time you meet someone new you are building your network. Additionally, you may even achieve the desired result, whether it is creating a pathway for a new business deal, meeting a potential employer or client, having someone to sit with during the reception, etc.
3. Even if you don’t feel terribly confident, you can always fake it (‘till you make it). Tell yourself that you are the most confident, extroverted person in the room, and force yourself to go talk to someone. You will see that nothing awful will happen, and as a result, you will realize it’s not as hard as you originally thought. Then, the next person won’t be so intimidating, and each new introduction you force yourself to make will become easier and easier, until eventually the “fake” confidence becomes real.
Feeling confident in a networking setting isn’t something that happens immediately; it takes time and practice. By keeping in mind that it is a lot easier than it seems, and only good things can happen as a result, it will become more and more comfortable. So take a deep breath, keep your chin up, and go shake some hands!
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