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networking

For some people, networking is a “necessary evil.” That’s according to writer, speaker, and Career Sherpa blogger Hannah Morgan, who insists that one-third of all Americans have introverted tendencies likely to leave them fearful of making smalltalk in situations like networking events.

Fortunately, introverts are known for being good listeners with well-honed analytical skills, and in a terrific piece for U.S. News & World Report, Morgan shares “5 Tips for the Networking-Averse.” Read on and learn how to overcome your fears and make the professional connections you’ll need to move your career forward.

1. Plan Ahead for Events — One way to avoid awkward conversation is to attend events with people you actually have things in common with. That means asking others in your field to recommend meet-ups or professional groups likely to attract individuals with similar career goals.

2. Have Some Questions Ready — When making smalltalk, one way to keep the conversation flowing is to ask questions. At a networking event, begin with things like, “How are you dong?” and “Do you have plans for the weekend?” Then move to specifics: “What did you think of the speaker?” “Is there anyone here you’ve really enjoyed meeting?

3. Search for Common Ground — If you’re going to meet someone and grow an initial conversation into a stronger relationship or possibly even a friendship, you’ll need to find some shared interests. You do this, of course, by asking questions. “Not all connections will bloom into new best friends, but you will never know what the outcome will be unless you make the effort,” Morgan writes.

4. Make Yourself Go, Meet Self-Imposed Goals — One way to make sure you won’t back out of a networking event at the last minute, Morgan writes, is to ask someone you know to meet you there. Suddenly, bailing on the meet-up means flaking out on your buddy. Another tip: Set a goal of chatting up three new people or perhaps introducing yourself to the lecturer. Goals may vary, but the idea is to give yourself a realistic benchmark — something that’s attainable and likely to leave you feeling good about yourself, like it was a successful outing.

5. Put Yourself Out There — You know that nagging feeling of anxiety you get when you think about mingling with a bunch of strangers? Everyone gets it! Get over it and take the plunge, Morgan writes, and you’ll probably discover it’s not as hard as you think.