Whether you’re a hardcore introvert or simply someone who gets nervous around new people, networking is tough. It’s even harder when you attend functions labeled as “networking events” and are expected to make smalltalk with strangers in some giant conference room. As Daily Muse editor Erin Greenawald writes, though, there are lots of ways to forge meaningful career connections, and in a terrific post titled “How to Network Without Leaving Your Comfort Zone,” she offers some pretty sound advice. Read on for a summary.
1. Start With People You Know — In our daily lives, we’re surrounded by people who know other people who know even more people. As you begin the networking process, think about coworkers, folks you’ve known through your alma matter, and fellow participants of activities you’ve taken part in. These might be individuals with strong connections worth getting to know better, and since you’re already friendly with them, it’ll be less scary to meet up and get the ball rolling.
2. Go Digital — To some, the letters IRL, or “in real life,” are enough to get the sweat pouring and make networking seem too terrifying to undertake. Luckily, much of today’s conversing takes place online, so try joining Twitter chats, writing blog posts, and contacting people on LinkedIn. At some point, Greenawald says, you’ll need to “move this relationship offline and meet in person (or over video chat if you’re across the world) to help deepen the connection,” but starting online will alleviate the initial awkwardness.
3. Be a Joiner — Meeting new people is so much easier when you have a shared interest. With that in mind, Greenawald suggests joining a club or professional organization, signing up for a class, registering for a conference, or doing anything that puts you in a room with likeminded individuals. Often, it’s helpful to pick something related to your industry, but the key is sticking to your passions, since you “you might find an opportunity that you never knew existed but that you’d really love,” as Greenawald says.
4. Play Host — What’s true in football also applies to networking: Home-field advantage matters. Host a cocktail party or dinner party and ensure a good group of people by inviting a few friends and asking each to bring along one person you haven’t met. Anyone who shows up will be ready to like you — you’re giving them food and/or drinks, after all — and just like that, you’ll have a bunch of new connections.