As an introvert, who grew up feeling shy and awkward around strangers, networking was always a terrifying prospect for me. So, you can imagine how amused I am when I’m told that I look like such a natural networker, or when someone remarks, “I could never have your confidence”.
Little do they know that it’s taken me close to two decades and a lot of hard work and courage to reach this stage.
It was a move to Switzerland from my home in the UK that prompted me to finally do something about my fear of networking. I didn’t have any friends or contacts here, so I was really going to limit my ability to progress in my career, and have fun, if I didn’t step up.
My early attempts at networking were pretty disastrous. I would stumble over my words, and generally feel like a rabbit caught in headlights. I started to observe what other people did. But, as most of them appeared to feel so at ease as they moved from one conversation to the next, it didn’t really help me. I needed another approach, one that would suit my introverted soul. And I needed skills!
Learning ‘Networking 101’
I bought a book to help me learn networking best-practice. It was great to finally understand what I should be doing, and many of the tips shared were helpful. Some I still use to this day. But none of the books I read helped me prepare mentally for the challenge ahead of me.
Then one day, at a leadership training event, we were taught ‘self-coaching’. We were encouraged to find a problem we were experiencing, then brainstorm solutions before categorising them and making an action plan. That was the birth of my VICTORY formula.
My VICTORY Formula
The formula mapped out my way forward. It started with creating a clear Vision, so I could connect with why mingling with strangers was important to me and worth the effort. Then it helped me to get Intentional about mastering the skills I needed, and in building my Courage and confidence.
The formula also encouraged me to be True to myself, and not be tempted to feel as though I should be anyone other than myself. And to plan ahead to determine how I would respond to certain Obstacles.
I then created a set of Rules to guide my actions. These gave me permission to grow at my own pace, to make mistakes and call them ‘fascinating’, and celebrate all my achievements no matter how small. They removed a lot of the pressure I had previously placed on myself to do things perfectly.
Finally, to regularly remind myself that Yes! I can do this.
The formula played a central role in my ability to learn, grow and start feeling more comfortable while networking. So much so, I’ve devoted half of my book ‘A Shy Girl’s Guide to Networking’, to sharing the formula with others who are looking to up-level their networking confidence.
A Game of Three Halves
Another big realisation for me, was that networking is a game of three parts. I discovered that it’s what you do before and after a networking event that really determine your levels of success. It’s not just a case of showing up with a pocket full of business cards.
Understanding the three-step process, enabled me to break things down and master the art of networking bit by bit. This also helped me to see the results of each new action, which motivated me to take the next action, and so on.
You can learn more about these three stages in the Networking Success Checklist I created to guide my own actions, and now yours too!
Putting it All Together
Once I started following my VICTORY formula, and preparing myself in accordance with the three-stages of networking, things started to fall into place quickly. And it was a virtuous cycle.
As I got comfortable with each new skill, my confidence would improve. This gave me better results, and improved my willingness to get out there and network. It has been a long journey, but such an enjoyable and rewarding one.
A World of Possibility
Through my networking, I’ve met a wide range of interesting people, expanded my knowledge, and have been offered many exciting opportunities that I would never have learned about otherwise.
My network has also enabled me to launch three businesses at zero cost and become an international public speaker, and now author too …I met my mentor and publisher through a networking contact!
You just never know where your next ‘Hello’ will take you in life, and that’s an exciting prospect!
If you are eager to build improve your skills and enjoy building your networking confidence, all the knowledge and guidance you need is in Melitta’s highly actionable and inspiring new book: A Shy Girl’s Guide to Networking.