5 Ways to Make Networking Easier
If you’re an introvert or someone who finds talking to strangers awkward, networking can be the bane of your existence. I know for me, the traditional sense of networking events and passing around business cards makes my hands clammy, my heart race and honestly I just want to look for the exit.
The hardest part of networking, in my opinion, is not just the surface-level conversations, but the fact that networking is a must-do as part of our career development. We cannot escape it because its necessary for us to be successful in our career.
To make these interactions and connections more rewarding, impactful and fun, I’ve come up with 5 methods that make us not roll our eyes or feel as nervous when we think of networking.
Join a professional association - By being part of an organization related to your career, you open yourself to events and meetings where connecting with others is more natural and less forced. They also might have mentorship opportunities for you to build stronger connections within your career field.
Volunteer in the community - The seams counter-intuitive to growing in your career, but many different experiences, conversations and interactions can assist us in our career journey. Volunteering is an easy way to meet new people without the expectation of getting business contacts.
Sign up for a committee - A great way to build relationships in your company or organization is by joining a committee -- it can be organization-wide or just within your unit. It’s a fun way to meet more people, but have a purpose in your conversations and the work you’re doing.
Make a goal - If you are in a situation at a conference or happy hour, where you need to do networking bingo or collect business cards, make a goal for yourself. It doesn’t have to be filling the whole bingo card or collecting the most cards, but it could be meeting someone in a field you want to learn about or finding someone that went to the same college or is from your home state. While it could be a silly goal, if it makes you feel better and more confident then go for it.
Keep an open mind - While it may not be “fun,” but keeping yourself open to potential connections can make networking a little easier. The extroverts in the room will sense that you’re open to chatting and will come over to speak with you. When I was at a conference this year, I didn’t know a soul, but I kept an open mind by using welcoming body language and a few people came up and spoke with me for a few minutes. It wasn’t ground-breaking, but it was a way to ease into the conversations.
What are some other ways that you make networking fun? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!