Today, networking is essential for anyone looking to advance their careers, and it’s normal to feel uncomfortable when putting yourself out there in your professional life. When it’s your career and livelihood on the line, it’s easy to feel intimidated by having to network in ways that feel authentic and effective for you. And particularly intimidating are networking events. So here are three tips that will help you get what you need out of your next networking event.
1. Go in with the right intention
Rather than thinking about networking as you trying to get something (like a deal or job), think about it as an opportunity to share who you are. If you do that, you’ll find that you act very differently than if you were desperately trying to sell yourself.
So, say that you set a clear intention on making connections—great! That’s a healthy and effective intention for a networking event. An unhealthy intention would be to enter the networking event only to get a job offer. That would put a lot of pressure on you—to the detriment of other opportunities. If you did that, you might miss out on the types of conversations and people that may not have a job offer for you right now, but who could be great partners in the future as you develop long-term relationships with them.
Remember that when you bring an open and curious energy, that magnetizes people to you. They’ll want to speak with you, ask you questions, and share things about themselves. Basically, the networking will happen with more ease. You’ll not only enjoy yourself more without being so anxious but you’ll also be showing the best of yourself in your relaxed state.
As for how to get into that curious and comfortable state, it helps to get a sense of the environment you’ll be stepping into so you have ideas about the people you might like to connect with, ask questions about, and share your own work with. This is addressed in point #2 below.
2. Do your homework beforehand
If it’s possible, scope out who’s attending the event before you arrive. You can ask the organizers if they have any information about registered names or businesses. Or, if there’s a social media events page, you can easily find the profiles of the people who have RSVP’d. This will give you an idea of the type of companies and businesses you can expect to see, giving you some time to do research into specific businesses that you feel drawn to.
Not only is having a heads up on the community of people attending beneficial for you but also having this opportunity to set up meetings with people before the event is a way to start the networking and connecting process early. Basically, the event can then just be a continuation of a conversation you’d already begun, thus putting you one step ahead of the others in the room.
3. Focus on giving rather than getting
If you focus on giving more than getting, it completely changes the way you communicate in a networking setting. When you freely share your ideas, knowledge, and your own connections, people will feel drawn to you. It shows that you’re not there to compete with others but solely to connect. The truth is, a competitive mindset repels people; the conversations are exhausting to hold.
Think of it this way: giving out your own contacts, linking people together, introducing others, and referring people to those you're talking with is a win-win situation for everyone. It will inspire people you speak with to do the same for you, and it will demonstrate your capacity to be a team player with pure intentions—now that’s the type of person we all want to work with.
If you can remember these simple tips and follow them before and during your upcoming networking event, you’ll find that you’ll be closer to getting what you need—and you’ll also enjoy the event a whole lot more.
Natalie Fisher is best known for helping professionals land their dream jobs and achieve explosive salary growth (even with little experience). If you’re looking for a deeper dive on networking and how to access endless opportunities in your job hunt, sign up for the Free workshop HERE.