There are people who waltz into a room, spot someone, walk up to them and immediately make a connection. They are masters at this game, moths drawn to the light of potential acquaintances. They normally seem invincible as they dragon-glide across the room with a lizard-like glory, like an old show man at the end of year circus.So effortless is their subtle wink, so automatic their smile, so commanding the spring in their step.
Then there’s you. Shy, introverted, cut from a different cloth. Polyurethane to their silk. Plagued by your love for seclusion, social circles are not your thing. You prefer familiar groups of not more than five or being in a quiet place reading a book undisturbed. Your ideal life.
Which is all fine and dandy, to a point Cinderella colorful, until you get to a networking event. You know that this is your ticket to career advancement. You are very aware that the contacts in this room are your gateway, but how do you even start talking to them? Suddenly all those tips you had on how to network disappear. You try approaching one person, “Hi!” then you go silent. The jitters and the cold feet. Finally, with a professional actor’s pretense of visiting the washrooms, you make a quick exit. Maybe next time.
The problem is, there may be never a next time. Each and every time you meet a potential connection, treat it like it’s the only time you’ll ever see them. Seize the moment and squeeze all the opportunities from it.
Here are five tips to build your networking skills and make sure you rule networking.
1. Perfect your elevator pitch
This shouldn’t be a verbal recitation of your CV, but have details about who you are, what you are currently doing, why you love it and where you look forward to be in the future. Start using this elevator pitch with the familiar crowd before swimming into the deep waters of actual events.
2. Use LinkedIn mail
Think of it as texting anyone only that this time it is on a professional level. The beauty about using this inbuilt LinkedIn messaging feature is that, you have access to the person and the leisure to craft the perfect pitch. Without the intimidating, face to face conversation, you can actually develop a conversation. Most shy people come alive when they write, so take advantage of your writing skills. Also, it’s way more beneficial than typing LMFAO on a friend’s Facebook status while carrying an expression that’s less emotional than a brick’s.
3. Practice chatting with your local grocer or shopkeeper
The environment is less formal which is a perfect opportunity to just improve on your courage to approach someone. Ask them about the market and how the future looks in the business. Just don’t start this conversation when there is a queue.
4. Practice at weddings and family get-togethers
Family functions are known to draw relatives whom you haven’t seen for quite a while, (and some angry ones who claim to be so and so’s wife or son). Try and catch up with them, ask what they have been up to since you last met and then build from that. Avoid the angry ones though, bad news!
5. Find a wingman/wingwoman
Just like in the dating world, the networking world is all about approaching and making connections. Borrowing a leaf from dating, you can form a tag team to approach a group of people if going solo seems impossible. When going for this wingman, find a person who is good at networking and ask them if they can introduce you to some of the people or just break the ice. This will make it easier for you to carry on the conversation after the initial scare is dealt with.
Networking for the shy can be like climbing up a mountain on a narrow steep path. It is promising if you look up and see all the possibilities, but mighty terrifying if you look down. Use these skills, and you won’t regret the view at the top.