Every year at school my program organizes multiple networking events. Most students love the opportunity to meet new people and make valuable connections that could help them get a job. I am not one of those students. As an introvert and someone with social anxiety, I hate going to networking events. There are so many people, I don’t understand the objective and I never know who to talk to or what to talk about.
Even though I hate going to them, networking opportunities come up often and they’re a good opportunity. Meeting new people can help you further your career goals and you may even make a connection that turns into a friendship! To help get me through these events I’ve developed some tips that can help introverts (like me) do well at any networking event.
Tip #1: Bring a Friend
I always find that it helps to bring a friend. Someone who is more of an extrovert and in the same program as you is the ideal event buddy.
Bringing an extroverted friend to an event forces you to get out there because they will want to talk to everyone in the room and will bring you along with them. Make sure that you don’t blindly follow them around and stand in their shadow though. If they’re talking in a group, try to talk to one person or make a comment. I find that it’s much easier to talk to people when introductions have been made and the group is already talking about something. All you have to do is make small comments and you’re magically part of the conversation instead of being on the sidelines.
Tip #2: Set a Goal
Always have a goal before going in. If I set a goal of talking to two people before I can go home, I’m going to talk to those two people.
If I go to an event and I spend the entire night standing in a corner, I’ll leave feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything. But by setting an objective to have at least two meaningful conversations, I can go home knowing the night was a success. Two connections are better than none!
Tip #3: Practice Your Answers
You don’t have to literally stand in front of a mirror (unless that works for you!), but if you’re like me and are easily flustered, then try preparing answers. When you meet new people, there are always a few common questions that they’ll ask: “What do you do? Where are you from? What are you looking to do in the future?” Just don’t memorize those answers – there’s nothing worse than someone who is trying to remember a script they rehearsed before coming to an event. Be genuine and have confidence that you’ve given yourself enough time to prepare.
The same questions you’re being asked can also work for you! Try starting the conversation and you may be surprised by their answers. It also takes the pressure off of you to do all the talking. Questions like, “Tell me more about that” and “That’s so interesting, how did you start doing that?” can really keep the conversation going in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Most people like to talk about themselves, so take advantage of that, and let them talk. Not only will you be having a conversation (yay, you!), but you’ll be less likely to feel embarrassed or flustered.
Networking events are something that most people will have to deal with for their entire working lives, so learning what works for you and how to get the most out of them will definitely help you in the future. If you struggle at these events, try to see if these tips work for you. It’s great to get out there, but you have to find what makes you comfortable in the environment to really shine. For more tips and career resources visit the Incubator page.