By: Stephanie Dixon
ADPR Connection is right around the corner, and you know what that means…networking upon networking upon networking. Now if you’re like me, the thought of going up to a potential employer and striking up a conversation out of the blue is a little intimidating. Some people are just naturally great networkers, and if that is the case for you, consider yourself lucky. This blog post is for all of you self-described introverts who need a little help sparking those meaningful connections.
First off, know that there is absolutely no shame in being intimidated by networking. In fact, introverts actually make some of the best networkers out there! Studies have proven that introverts value quality over quantity. So while they may make fewer connections, they put so much time and effort into making those connections meaningful that their relationships are actually stronger. Introverts are also typically skilled listeners, and listening is 70 percent of the battle when it comes to forging new connections. So, if you are an introvert and networking intimidates you…don’t worry, because you are wired for success!
The following is your Introvert’s Guide to Successful Networking:
- Don’t network, forge meaningful connections.
The term “networking” is short-sighted. It suggests an end-goal mentality, where you are simply connecting with someone because of what they can do for you. Don’t network. Focus on making meaningful connections with people instead. Pretend you are making a friend rather than talking to a potential employer and the conversation will come more naturally to you. Networking is more about selling yourself and what you can do, which can be intimidating. Making new friends? Not as intimidating. Talk to them like you would talk to a potential new friend.
- Remember you have nothing to lose.
Think about it…you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from going up to someone and striking up a conversation. If the conversation turns out to be awkward or doesn’t go anywhere, no big deal. You will probably never see that person again, so why stress yourself out about it? And if the conversation goes well (which it most likely will), you just successfully forged a connection that could be beneficial for both parties down the road. Life is full of awkward moments with people you will never see again, so why let the fear of living out those awkward moments ruin your chances of landing your dream career?
- Do your research before hand.
You can never come too prepared, especially to an event like ADPR Connection. Do your research on the employers that will be coming, creep on some of the company’s employees on LinkedIn, be conversational in their business model, clients and projects. Coming into the conversation already knowing that you have things to talk about if the conversation starts to die will make you feel 100 times more confident.
- Come prepared with a question or two.
Along with being prepared, always have at least two questions in the back of your mind to ask the representative if the conversation start to die. The research you did beforehand will help you craft those questions. Make them meaningful questions that you genuinely want to know the answer to. People can tell when you are asking a question simply to ask a question and keep the conversation going. Show genuine interest in their work!
- Have an exit strategy.
The end of the conversation can be the most awkward, as you try to figure out how to leave and still retain the connection you made while chatting. Have an exit strategy in mind beforehand so that, once again, you come in to the conversation confident and prepared. When the conversation starts to die and you are looking to leave, say something to the effect of, “Well hey, I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you. I’d love to chat more, but I won’t take up any more of your time. Here is my business card/resume, and I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn!” You can use the same exit strategy for each conversation, that way you already know exactly how you are going to leave and you don’t have the exit looming in the back of your mind throughout the conversation.
- Step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.
Everyone knows that practice makes perfect. The same goes for networking. You’re never going to get better at it if you shy away from every networking event that presents itself. So get out there! Sign up for every possible networking opportunity. Make it a point to meet at least three new people at every PRSSA meeting or Grady event that you attend. Strike up conversations with anyone and everyone. Build up your confidence so that, by the time you attend a Career Fair or a huge networking event, you’re a natural at it.
- Keep in mind that everyone is just as nervous as you.
Of course there will always be those people who own the room wherever they go and are naturally good at striking up conversations with everyone. But those people are few and far between. Most people at a conference or an event, especially fellow students, are just as nervous as you are. Talk to friends at the event between conversations with professionals and release some of your nerves. Sometimes commiserating with a friend or peer about how nervous you are can be cathartic and help you release that nervous energy. Plus, isn’t it great to hear that you’re not the only one feeling intimidated? It’s always comforting to know others are in the same boat as you.
- Remember that people are people.
Whether it’s a potential employer, a professor or your best friend, people are people. Anyone you network with, including the representatives at ADPR Connection, are just people. They have families, a sense of humor, two eyes and a nose just like you. Don’t be afraid to be funny, talk about what you like to do, talk about your favorite sports team, tell them about that time you studied abroad or ask them what their favorite book is. The most memorable conversations are the ones that aren’t about career-related things at all! Show your personality, tell your story. *When you start viewing that potential connection as a person just like you, rather than a potential employer who is out to judge you, you will never feel anxious going into a conversation again.*