Why is Networking Scary?
The scary part about putting yourself out there is that you open yourself up to potential rejection. But how people react to you says less about you and more about them.
If someone is looking around while you’re trying to talk to them, you might think they find you uninteresting. But who knows — maybe they said that they would meet up with a friend and don’t want to miss them.
Even if your worst case scenario is true and the person you’re talking to finds you painfully boring and unemployable, they’re just one person and their views won’t have any impact on you or your future success. Successful networkers are good at picking themselves up, brushing themselves off, and introducing themselves to the next person.
What Do Successful Networkers Do That You Don’t?
Successful networkers weren’t born able to work a room. They’ve likely developed their skills over many years. If you’ve never networked before, don’t expect to blow people away the first time you shake hands with someone.
1. Networking is a Numbers Game
If you’re going to an event hoping to find someone who will meet you for coffee and help you talk through potential career options, you might not meet the right person on your first attempt. Keep trying!
2. Have Some Conversation Starters Ready
Successful networkers know how to engage people with some easy conversation starters like “What brought you to the event tonight?” or “What did you think about those speakers we just heard?” But they also know how to gracefully leave conversations if the person they’re talking to isn’t the right fit for their networking goals. Just saying that it’s nice to meet the person and shaking their hand is one way to extricate yourself, but you can also say that you want to go get a drink or that you see someone you know across the room.
3. Know Your Networking Strengths
Successful networkers know what works for them. Some bring along a networking buddy to make them feel more comfortable. Others shun networking events entirely and reach out to potential connections via LinkedIn, introductions from a mutual friend, or emails. There are lots of different ways to network!
4. Be Strategic About Your Approach
Not all networking happens at events. If you want to land a job, for example, you might be better off asking someone you know to introduce you to people at companies hiring, or even sending an e-mail to someone in the department asking to learn more. If you’re looking to find out more about whether your skills and interests would be a good fit for a job, you might want to go to business competitions, angel investing events or start-up focused events and work the room.
5. Have an Elevator Pitch
Before you attend any event, make sure to figure out exactly what you want to get out of it and come up with an elevator pitch that will tell people about your yourself as a student or job seeker. Keep it to less than 30 seconds, and have it ready to go if you meet someone who might be able to help reach your goals.
You can also use platforms like Ten Thousand Coffees. Best known for connecting employees with their colleagues based on their role and experience, Ten Thousand Coffees also connects university students with faculty alumni and offers simple, step-by-step instructions on how to network effectively for those who are new to networking.
6. Help Others Too
Remember that networking isn’t just about trying to get others to help you. Networking often works best if it’s reciprocal. Rather than just reciting your elevator pitch to everyone you meet and then moving on, ask them questions, listen to their responses and consider how you can help them too. Being able to help the people you’re connecting with is critical to creating a strong network.
Also, if you do make a networking faux pas, don’t worry! Most likely the only person who will remember it tomorrow is you. Learn from it and someday you too may be a networking superstar!
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.