Just hearing or reading the word “networking” makes my heart beat faster. I used to hate the concept of networking. Why couldn’t I just stay at home and rely on merit to get me through the door? I learned that while merit gets people acknowledged and is an indicator of one’s future performance, building lasting connections is important to becoming informed about open positions and acquiring these positions. Nonetheless, I still dreaded attending receptions and networking events. Receiving free food was a great incentive for me to attend. I am going to share a few things I do to get through important networking events.
Put your big girl pants on, preferably corporate casual, and go to the events. I realized I wouldn’t get any better at networking if I stayed at home and found a seemingly valid excuse for not attending certain events. The only way to get better is to constantly immerse yourself in the environment. I know that is the best and the worst advice, but I have some tips on how to optimize the experience and make it less dreadful.
- Dress for Success: This may seem shallow but the saying “Look good, feel good, do good” works for me. I make sure I wear something comfortable, compliant with the dress code, and cute (Three C’s). When I wear an outfit that I feel confident in, I am apt to exhibit confident behavior.
- Do Not Force It: At networking events, I stay in my comfort zone. This does not mean I stand in a corner, tapping through my phone, and do not interact with others. This just means I do not force awkward conversations, I don’t force interaction with people simply because of their titles or positions, and I do not insert myself into an environment where I do not feel wanted.
- Find Your Safe Place: I migrate to groups where I notice a common quality. Some events will have tables labeled by interest. For example, at many of the law school events there are specific tables designated for students with certain legal interests. There is always a common interest at networking events so you should never feel excluded.
- Take a Break: If you are feeling completely overwhelmed step outside or go to the restroom for a breather. There are hundreds of people there so no one will realize that you stepped out for a moment. Socializing is draining for me. So sometimes, depending on how long the event is, I need to step outside and hit the reset button.
I hope you find this information helpful.