Networking is often an important part of career development, but while some find it both simple and natural to create and develop personal relationships, others feel uncomfortable about taking that first step and “connecting” with someone you meet at a trade show or out at town.
However, being shy or reserved does not have to be an obstacle and you who do not feel completely comfortable contacting people you do not know can be just as effective as the outgoing “super-networker” – you may just need to take a different approach that feels more right to you.
Here are some quick tips on how to grow and develop your professional network:
Start near the home
The largest professional network is not always the best. Having 1000+ contacts on Linkedin does not automatically mean that you have a network that can help you move forward in your career.
A strong core network with close acquaintances, old fellow students and former colleagues may be easier to manage and maintain, especially for the slightly shy.
A good start is to start by developing existing relationships or reconnecting with previous contacts who may be able to coach and help you with career decisions or act as references when applying for a job.
Choose events with care
A strong core network can take you a long way, but at the same time it is important to continue to expand the network with more contacts.
For those of you who are more reserved by nature, an idea might be to go to events where you have something in common with other participants, such as professional industry meetings with themes and lectures that will keep you warm.
A theme that interests you and is easy to talk about can help you start conversations and overcome the inconvenience of initiating cold talk.
Have a plan
An imminent event can easily become something to worry about or dread. Instead of putting your mental energy into worrying about what makes you uncomfortable with these events, try to channel the same energy into setting clear goals for your visit to the event and how you can work to achieve those goals.
An example of this could be setting an achievable, realistic goal where you will find four people to connect with at the event.
Once you have nailed your goal, you can move on in the process and think about how you best achieve this goal and how you can approach people you want to connect with comfortably and naturally in your own circumstances. For example, what about using knowledge and insights on the subject that you feel comfortable with to start dialogue and build relationships?
Volunteering – can it be something?
Classic networking at events is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to building relationships and expanding your network. Another way that can sometimes feel more natural for the somewhat restrained is to participate in volunteer work and thus make new contacts.
Working together for a common cause can be an excellent opportunity to get to know new people, talk about your background, career, ambitions and be introduced to new contacts in a relaxed way. At the same time, it is a good opportunity to “show what you are going for” and that you are a person who is happy to help and contribute to a good cause.