Fear of Networking, or “mingle-phobia”, is a common concern I hear when coaching executives in transition. It seems their networking muscles have atrophied while they were myopically submerged with their former employer. For many, networking seems artificial and painful. Personally, finding myself in the position of meeting new people makes my heart race with gleeful anticipation, so I have great compassion for those who break into a clammy sweat. Here are some tips for coping with mingle-phobia.
Get biblical. Seek to understand, instead of being understood. Yes, take the pressure off yourself by being a good listener. As you listen someone into existence, you win their favor every time. Who knows, they may eventually get around to asking something about you.
Baby steps. One contact at a time. Prepare “small talk” that relates to the nature of the event or the host of the event.
Mix it up. Pick a social function that isn’t job related. Attend a wine tasting, art opening, cooking class, or a “Meetup”.
Networking = Interviewing. And vice-versa. Consider every opportunity to meet someone new as a chance to get in front of a potential business opportunity, office mate, or employer. Treat every interview as an opportunity to network.
19TH Century manners. Leave your calling card. Order a simple, classy card with your basic contact information. No photo, please. Save it for LinkedIN.
Be yourself. People sense authenticity. Even the briefest genuine connection can inspire a domino effect that lands you at the doorstep of your next big gig.
Where for art though, confidence? Fact. Career transition zaps your confidence. Take a realistic inventory of your past successes and positive feedback earned throughout your career. Recognize and own your unique values, motivations, talents, characteristics, experiences, cultural makeup, and personality. Radiate that uniqueness.
Optimism is infectious (and much more fun to be around than its’ counterpart). Hold your head high with possibility that you might be just the solution someone in that room is seeking.
Me and my shadow. When all else fails, find a buddy to assist with introductions. If you just can’t muster up the courage to go it alone, solicit a friend to accompany you or let you tag along.
Practice makes less painful. Start with two networking events each month on the calendar. You have arrived when you have booked at least one a week.
Do it NOW. Start a regular habit of networking to maintain your networking skills and ease and begin developing a range of contacts in case you find yourself suddenly outplaced.
Join a club or association which meets at regular weekly or monthly intervals. Better yet, take on a leadership role, forcing routine attendance.
Before long, you will not only network with ease, you may even grow to like it. As for me, I arrive an open-minded stranger and leave an enriched acquaintance as often as possible.