We all know that networking can be a daunting task (despite being very important) in the job search process.
Often, clients are nervous about approaching contacts and conducting networking meetings. And although feeling a certain amount of anxiety is normal, finding ways to overcome your networking nerves is critical for success in your job search.
Here are five ways to calm your anxiousness:
1. Reframe how you think of networking.
- At its core, networking 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 your contact for a shorter window of time (e.g., 10 to 15 minutes versus 20 to 30 minutes). Take the pressure off; refer to your upcoming conversation as an exchange of information instead of a networking call.
- Focus on the outcome you desire rather than on what could go wrong.
- For each conversation, define what constitutes a “successful” outcome. Many different positive outcomes are possible, such as gaining insight into a better way to talk about your experiences, learning a key piece of information about a target company, or being introduced to a new contact.
2. Create and internalize a positive mantra (e.g., “I have a lot to offer”).
- Put yourself in the shoes of the person with whom you are talking; they are just like you.
- Remember that your contact has agreed to talk with you, so they are willing to have the conversation and anticipate that you will ask for their advice and guidance.
- No one expects you to be perfect. Plus, your contact’s actions or reactions to your conversation could have little to do with you and much to do with what is going on in their 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.
3. Show respect and gratitude.
- Be an active listener. When you are a good listener, the conversation will likely flow more smoothly. The exchange is about building rapport, not simply gathering facts. You can do this by asking thoughtful follow-up questions or commenting on what the contact shares with you.
- Make the interaction with your contact a two-way street by offering to reciprocate in some way. Maybe your contact is quietly looking for a new job, wants to understand the marketplace better, or has a family member who is searching for a contact like you.
4. Confront your fears.
- What are you most worried about happening? With that answer in mind, plan out how you can be ready should that worst thing actually happen. What would you do? (You might even realize that your worst-case scenario is fairly unlikely.)
- Determine whether (and what kind of) preparation will reduce your fears. Maybe consider role-playing?
- Think about the times when you feel this type of fear elsewhere in your life. Why does it happen, and have you discovered any strategies to overcome it?
- Set a reasonable goal for each conversation as well as overarching goals for the amount of networking outreach you plan to do each week.
- Research your contact. Create an agenda, and draft customized questions before your call. You asked for the meeting, so you will be expected to drive it.
- Practice! Know how you will introduce yourself, and be comfortable answering questions about your background and interests.
After each networking meeting, do not forget to acknowledge (and maybe even celebrate) the courage you showed in stepping outside your comfort zone. Every conversation is both a win and a learning opportunity.
For more career advice, download our free career guides, which have been written in conjunction with industry insiders who provide intriguing perspectives on the fields.
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