If we’re being honest, most people aren’t master networkers. Even those that are experts at networking, or pretend to be, experience the nauseating discomfort associated with being thrown into a room full of strangers and expected to make friends—better yet, grow a career.
If you’re one that cringes at the mere thought or mention of networking, you are not alone. The good news for you is that you don’t have to push past that paralyzing discomfort if you don’t want to. There are ways for you to network within your comfort zone; you just have to get creative.
Here’s a little of what you can do:
- Capitalize on you social media connections. Your network already exists! You know all of those friends, colleagues, and unknowns you follow on social media? Through these people, there may be degrees of separation that, if discovered, could lead you to your next gig. Pay closer attention to who you’re already connected with and see who those people connect with. Don’t be afraid to slide in those DM’s and ask for introductions. You’re not just following people to see what they had for lunch—they’re called social “networks” for a reason.
- Raise your profile. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you didn’t have to go to them because they were already coming to you? Raising your profile on social media including posting samples of your work, updates on what you’re doing professionally, and engaging others in your profession are all great ways to be noticed. When people see what you’re doing for yourself, they often wonder what you can also do for them and vice versa. No need for awkward conversation starters when your work is the icebreaker.
- Don’t overlook your email address book. Old friends, teachers, schoolmates, and work colleagues can still be found there if you just take a look. Reach out to those people, in or relative to your industry, who you already have contacts for. Circle back around to catch up. Invite them out for coffee if they’re near, or open up a flowing email exchange and reconnect.
- Let your friends and family know exactly what you’re looking for. Ever hear the saying “closed mouths don’t get fed”? Well, here is where it applies. You may think you know practically everyone your friends and family know, but you’d be surprised. Let those closest to you know what you’re looking for and ask them to really think of who they might know that may be able to help you to obtain it. When they really put their minds to it, they may know someone who knows someone and they hadn’t even realized it prior to your prompting.
Awkward and uncomfortable don’t have to be factors of networking—you just have to use what you already have, to get what you want. Happy connecting!