We all know the value of networking to help you in finding a career, transitioning into a new career or strengthening your current career. But for some of us who are shy, it may make us feel a bit uneasy to approach and derive the most value from a networking event. To help, we’ve put together these 5 tips for networking for shy people.
Networking for Shy People Tip #1: Put your focus on the other person.
At a networking event, Dr. Miriam Reiss, MCC, of the Institute for Coaching, suggests you, “Put your focus on the other person. If you’re thinking about how you look, how you feel or what you’re saying, that will only make you more self-conscious!” Try to listen to what the other person is saying rather than the ongoing dialogue in your own head. Don’t worry about what you’re going to say next; if you’re really listening to what the other person is saying, the conversation will flow naturally.
Networking for Shy People Tip #2: Be Prepared.
Depending on what kind of networking you’re doing, preparation will vary. For example, if you’re networking for new business, make sure you work on your 30-second pitch and have concise answers to the basic Q&A’s that prospective partners or clients might ask. If you’re networking to find a new job, you need to practice your rap for questions like “what do you do?”, “what are you looking for?” and other common questions. For a job seeker, it is also good to be up on current events and trends that affect your field.
Practice these responses in the mirror or grab a trusted friend and role-play. Ask your friend to rate you on how clear, concise and confident your answer was as well as how connected you are with them. Remember you can sound great, but if you don’t connect with the other person, they won’t connect to you! Practicing responses in a mirror or with a friend may sound extreme but if you are a bit shy, we strongly recommend it. Take the extra time and be prepared. You will feel more confident, make better connections and get more value from the networking experience.
Networking for Shy People Tip #3: Create a Goal.
Before you go to any networking event, have a goal in mind. Perhaps set goals like making five great connections or having eight different conversations. These goals will get you to stay focused and help you break out of your shell. This strategy can be much more effective than talking to one or two people and going home. And if you achieve your goal, do something nice for yourself to acknowledge your courage!
Networking for Shy People Tip #4: Follow Up
Stay in contact with people you meet. During your conversations, make mental notes of what you spoke about and find reasons to follow up with them. Your first follow-up might just be to tell them you enjoyed meeting them. But then, perhaps in a week or two, you find an article you think they may like. Send it to them! This builds relatedness and can take a relationship from a simple conversation at a networking event to a much deeper connection. Don’t be afraid to invite the person you spoke to out for a coffee to chat a bit more—particularly if you had a good connection at the networking event.
Sometimes shy people think that the other person won’t want to hear from them; however, you shouldn’t assume that potential connections won’t be interested in what you have to say. This is exactly the type of self-advice you do not want to heed. Oftentimes a shy person may say this to themselves to avoid potentially facing rejection or no response. Your job is to act in the face of these self doubts and self-defeating talk.
Over time, as you attend more networking events, you will get better at it and realize it is not so bad! And if someone does not follow up with you, or does not show great interest, move on and don’t take it personally. Find people with whom you do connect and foster those relationships.
Networking for Shy People Tip #5: Don’t just think about what’s in it for me
A good networker is always thinking about how they can help the other person—even if he or she is networking for a job. Perhaps you meet someone and you find what they are up to or what they are looking for (Note: They are networking too—so they want or need something! Find out what it is).
A beginner networker may move on because that person does not have a job for them. An advanced networker will think about how they can help this other person with what they need. There is karma in networking and what goes around comes around; pay attention to how you can help others, not just how they can help you!
Even networking for shy people can be great if you remember to follow these simple guidelines. Dr. Reiss put it best: “Imagine you’re new to the planet and you want to find out all about this other person. Make networking fun and interesting for yourself by seeing this as a discovery process.” Also, remember that the people you’re talking to were most likely in your shoes before and just want to develop a relationship with people as much as you do! With these pointers in your arsenal, you’ll be ready to make things happen with successful networking. Good luck!