Overcoming Networking Nerves

In this new blog series, our mbaMission Career Coaches offer invaluable advice and industry-related news to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. To schedule a free half-hour consultation with one of our mbaMission Career Coaches, click here.

We all know that networking can be a daunting (yet very important) task in the job search process. Often, clients are nervous about approaching contacts and conducting networking meetings. And although having a certain amount of anxiety is very normal, finding ways to overcome those nerves is critical for success in your job search.

Here are five ways to squelch your nerves:

  • Reframe networking; it is just a conversation between two people. You have conversations at work or school all the time. In many of these conversations, you ask people for things or seek their advice. Networking is no different.
    • Consider asking for a shorter window of time (e.g., 10 to 15 minutes versus 20 to 30 minutes). Take the pressure off; just call it a conversation.
    • Focus on the outcome you desire instead of what could go wrong.
  • Create and internalize a positive mantra (e.g., “I deserve to be here,” “I have a lot to offer”).
    • Put yourself in the shoes of the person with whom you are talking; he/she is a human being, just like you.
    • Remember that your contact has agreed to talk with you; he/she is willing to have this conversation.
    • Nobody expects you to be perfect. Your contact’s actions or reactions could have little to do with you and much to do with what is going on in his/her mind or life.
    • Remember to breathe. Go easy on the caffeine! Drinking too much coffee will increase your heart rate, potentially exacerbating your feelings of nervousness.
  • Show respect.
    • Listen carefully. When you are a good listener, the conversation is likely to flow better. You will talk about things that help you achieve your goals but also interest your contact. It is about building rapport, not just gathering facts.
    • Make it a two-way street; offer to reciprocate. You do not know if your contact is quietly looking for a new job, is seeking to understand the marketplace better, or has a family member who may be in search of a contact like you.
  • Combat your fears—and recognize that many of them may be irrational.
    • What are you most worried about happening? Armed with that answer, plan out how you can prepare if that worst thing happens (or perhaps realize that your worst-case scenario is fairly unlikely). What would you do?
    • Determine whether (and what kind of) preparation will reduce your fears. Maybe consider role playing?
    • Think about when you feel this type of fear elsewhere in your life. Why does it happen, and have you discovered any strategies to overcome it?
  • Prepare.
    • Set a reasonable goal for your conversation. Research your contact. Create an agenda, and draft customized questions before your call.
    • Practice! Know your pitch, and be comfortable answering questions about your background and interests.

Finally, acknowledge (and maybe celebrate) the courage it took you to step outside your comfort zone. Every conversation is both a win and a learning opportunity. Leverage the positive momentum of one conversation into your next one.

Have you been admitted to business school? If so, do you want to get a head start on defining your career goals? Do you need help preparing for job interviews or learning how to effectively network with your target employers? Or maybe you want to be a top performer in your current role but are unsure how to maximize your potential. Let an mbaMission Career Coach help via a free 30-minute consultation!

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