I’ll let you in on a little secret…
I wasn’t always this way. “What way?” you may ask.
As a child I was quite reserved. My teachers indicated that I was shy, observant, empathic and diligent. And guess what? Although I have since developed into a professional networker, I still get nervous and shy — especially if I’m in a new environment or feel like I’m out of my element. But I’ll share with you how I’ve gotten from “shy to shining” in how I feel about and approach networking.
Each one of those qualities my teachers commented upon (yes, including the shyness) is what has helped me to become the networker I am today. Allow me to explain:
People who feel shy have this going for them: They are often the best listeners. Everyone wants to be truly heard so someone who really listens stands out. A good listener also responds most appropriately in conversation because they are paying attention what others are saying and not just what they personally wish to say.
By observing how others make networking look so easy (or any other skill for that matter), you can glean insights into what tools and techniques are being put to use that you can try out or modify for yourself. By being observant, you also learn more about the world around you and how you can integrate into it effectively.
The best way to feel at ease is to get out of your own head. Think about what the other person feels or needs and how you can help. As soon as you shift from a mentality of “it’s all about me” to “how can I help them” you will feel not only more confident but will be more effective in the ways you relate to others. I think you’ll also find that your connections feel more meaningful when you practice empathy.
To get good and confident at anything, you need to get out there and practice. Practicing inevitably leads to making mistakes. Allowing yourself the grace to be okay with making mistakes, having a sense of humor and learning from them makes you human and all the more approachable. I cannot count how many times I have made a networking faux pas. But each time, I brush myself off, learn, improve so that I can become more confident and effective.
Now that you know my little secret, I hope you feel reassured that networking is a skill that you can learn and develop with practice. I went from someone who would try to literally hide in company –that’s a whole other story– to a person who finds meeting new people to be highly rewarding, meaningful, educational and supportive.
I welcome you to this blog where I’ll be happy to share with tips and techniques I’ve learned (and continue to learn!) that have been instrumental to me in networking effectively and with confidence. Please let me know if you have specific questions I can address. I also encourage you to share your own networking tips and success stories here!