The success of many industries and individuals within them often involves networking events. These can be an exciting opportunity to expand your list of professional contacts and liaise with potential customers. Building a positive reputation through networking is also a successful way to give our careers a little boost.
Despite this, networking is not something that comes naturally to everyone and the characteristics associated with someone who is a good networker are ones that can make others feel nervous. For example, being able to make small talk with a lot of people or enter a crowded room can be particularly challenging for those who suffer with social anxiety. An event that is often built up to be something enjoyable and social can end up being daunting and overwhelming.
However, when 70% of professionals value face-to-face networking over doing so online and 41% of professionals desire more time to network, it’s clear how important it can be for career development. With reports showing that 85% of jobs are filled via networking, overcoming networking anxiety will not only help you to thrive in your current job role, but it could also help you to land your dream job in the future.
Ben Edwards, a relationship coach and self-confidence expert, has some tips for overcoming networking anxiety.
Try not to act upon your anxiety
It’s common to worry that you’ll embarrass yourself, you won’t have anything valuable to say or people won’t be interested in talking to you. It’s normal to feel nervous about meeting new people and fearing rejection is common, however, acting on these fears and avoiding networking can make the situation worse. If you listen to your anxiety and avoid the event, you aren’t giving yourself the chance to show yourself (and others) how great you are and that you can overcome the nerves to talk to people successfully.
Consider what you eat and drink beforehand
While this might not seem to directly involve networking, what you eat and drink before an event can have a big impact on how you feel during it. For example, arriving on an empty stomach is likely to make you feel light-headed and unable to concentrate, which could increase the sense of feeling out of control or not present in the moment which quite often causes feelings of anxiety. Similarly, lay off the caffeine as this increases your heart rate could increase the feeling of being flustered or nervous.
Remember you have the right to be at the event
If you weren’t a valuable member of your team or valued by your employer, then you wouldn’t have been invited to the event. Networking anxiety can make it seem as though the event is full of industry experts that you don’t belong amongst. However, how anxiety makes us feel is very rarely the reality; if you’re good at your job, then it’s likely that people will want to network with you and see what you can do for them. Most people there will be in the same position as you and attending the event for similar reasons, so there’s no need to feel like the odd one out.
Fake it ‘till you make it
This piece of advice is often given to anyone suffering with anxiety and it can be met with a bit of scepticism, however, it can be particularly valuable when it comes to networking anxiety. Before an event, people will often worry about how they look or come across to others, but even the simplest steps can make you appear confident and approachable. No one attending a networking event expects everyone there to be a small-talk expert, but simply smiling, asking people how they are and having a list of things to say will make you appear as someone who can network a room well.