I’ve been a career coach for over a decade and I have seen a lot of trends come and go. But as much of things change, one thing seems to remain the same: many professionals are apprehensive about networking.
This isn’t just people who are new to the workforce, it’s mid-level professionals and executives. These are professionals who can tackle multiple tasks and challenges in the workplace, but when you put them in a room with a bunch of like-minded strangers, they clam up.
The good news is that I believe the fear of networking is one of the easiest career fears to overcome. Some of the best networkers I know started out with a fear of networking.
The key to overcoming the fear of networking is taking small steps. I often compare networking to going to the gym. You don’t build muscle in one trip, it’s a gradual process that takes time
With that in mind, here are three steps professionals can take to build their networking muscle:
Take Advantage Of Technology
Not only has technology made networking easier, but networking online has become quite normal, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic cutting down the amount of live networking events.
Start your networking efforts by building out your professional network on LinkedIn. Make an effort to connect with colleagues and the major players in your industry. Once you have a strong network, make an effort to serve that network. You could reach out to your connections by sending them messages or by sharing relevant articles or videos with them that they may enjoy.
Being active on LinkedIn is also a great way to stay front and center among your network and build your personal brand.
Networking online is a great starting point, and adds a certain level of comfort for those that struggle in social settings. As you build your networking muscle online, you’ll start to gain confidence and will be ready to step-up your networking efforts.
Find A Networking Buddy
Do you have a trusted friend or colleague that’s really good at networking? If they’re willing to share their knowledge, take advantage of it! Some people are just social butterflies and gravitate towards others. These same people are also usually willing to help others.
If you’re lucky enough to have someone like this in your life, ask them about their approach to networking, and what tips they have to make you a more confident networker. In addition, see if your networking buddy is willing to introduce you to a few relevant contacts in their network, or attend a networking event with you (when in-person events start up again).
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and if you have someone in your life willing to help, it would be silly to not take advantage of that opportunity. The fact is, when you look at most fears in life, a lot of them are overcome with the help of another person offering support and a push.
Make Networking A Routine
I’m going to use the gym comparison again!
It’s hard to make physical gains with a sporadic gym routine, you have to commit and make it a regular part of your life. It’s the same thing with networking,
Whatever gains you make early in your networking efforts will be difficult to maintain if you fail to establish a routine. The best way to maintain a strong networking routine is to remain active on LinkedIn by sharing content and exchanging messages.
It’s also important to attend a few networking events a year (in-person or online). It’s often the networking events that trip people up, but if you can attend the first few with a buddy, it makes the process a lot easier. From there, it’s up to you to make the effort.
If all goes well, the effort you put in will lead to many new connections and a level of confidence that makes networking easier during every opportunity. Before you know it, the fear is gone.
If you’re someone who’s apprehensive about networking, or just hasn’t put the effort into it, I implore to put a renewed focus on networking. Your network is your net worth! It’s extremely difficult to learn about new career opportunities, or make a career change, without the help of a strong network.
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