As any professional in the job market can tell you, networking is the new buzz word and one of the keys to finding a new position. While everyone can agree on the importance of building a strong professional network, there is still a great deal of confusion about the best way to go about it. If you talk to several people, you will hear several different theories on what works and what doesn't. There are many different approaches and some people even say that they aren't the “networking type”.
But, you need to know that networking is a learned skill, not a talent you are born with. Sure, there are people who seem to have a “knack” for it and pick it up easily and others who struggle with feeling uncomfortable with it while they are learning. And that can be said about any other skill. So, if you have anxiety when it comes to networking, don't worry, and know that it just takes some time to learn and get used to.
Here are some tips to become more comfortable with networking:
- Believe in yourself – Many people feel like they are bragging or being misleading when they network or market themselves. Although self-promotion may not feel comfortable at first, you have to believe in yourself and your skills in order to be truly effective. The best sales people are ones who have a passion for their product and believe in what they are selling. With that in mind, who could be more passionate about your skills and potential for success that you?
- Make a plan – Success doesn't happen by accident, it takes a plan. So, plan out how you are going to create a strong network. Think about how comfortable you are with meeting new people. If you aren't comfortable in those types of situations, start out with networking opportunities that are lower stress for you. For example, reaching out to your peers, friends and family might be the easiest place to start. But, keep pushing yourself to go outside of your comfort zone as well. And, remember that growing always hurts a little, so if you never feel uncomfortable, then you probably aren't challenging yourself.
- Create your elevator pitch and practice it over and over – Spend some time making your 30 minute promotional speech. This speech should mention the main point about your career and your abilities along with giving the listener and idea of what type of job you are looking for and why you are a great candidate. Once you have it planned out, practice it over and over. You will be delivering this speech many times and in situations where you may be nervous and anxious. The practice will make it easier to deliver without stumbling. Remember to smile.
- Ask for names – When you have the opportunity to network with other professionals, make sure you ask them for the names of other contacts. If you make this a habit, you will increase your professional contacts and maximize your networking opportunities.
- Embrace social media – Be sure to use social networking sites like Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook. These sites make networking easier and more organized. In addition, they make it easy to search for jobs, companies and people. They are a great way to stay in touch with your contacts and nurture relationships.
- Check out your Internet presence – Do a simple web search on your name and take a look at the results. Often, this is going to be an employers first impression of you. Do you like what you see? Does it adequately express who you are as a professional? If not, take the steps to clean up the things you don't like and find ways to show who you are online.
- Never stop building your network – Even if you find the job of your dreams, never stop taking advantage of every opportunity to network with other professionals. All too often, people neglect their networks once they find a job. No one likes fair weather friends, and this goes for your professional network as well. You never know when you may need them.
If you are struggling to networking, just keep reminding yourself that it is a skill, and like any other skill, it takes time and practice in order to become second nature. It may help to set up weekly networking goals and work toward reaching them. Don't lose hope, and keep looking for ways to connect.
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By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer, along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.