by Erin McNamara

Networking has developed a reputation, often met with shrugs and groans from those asked to participate. For some people, networking is an anxiety provoking word that leaves a person frozen in their tracks. For others, it comes more naturally, but usually means a stuffy few hours making small talk with strangers. The fact of the matter is, networking actually makes a difference, whether you’re looking for a job, or trying to grow your company. While it may seem daunting or unnecessary at first, the more you network the more you understand how and why it can help you.

Networking Isn’t A Big Deal 

As an introvert myself, walking into a room full of people has never been my favorite activity, especially when most of those people are total strangers. But as a college student aspiring to work in business, I spent 4 years pushing myself to attend networking events on campus. Then after graduation, I moved home and continued to put myself out there in the hopes of finding a job. Although I was never completely comfortable, with every event I slowly but surely realized that networking really isn’t a big deal. If you’re like me and get nervous about networking here are a few things to remember:

  • Start small.
    Just going to an event is a step in the right direction if you’re feeling anxious about networking. Maybe you go to a job fair and hand out a few resumes. You don’t need to come away with 30 business cards and a job offer, but you took the time to shake a few hands. That extra effort will pay off because not only are you bettering yourself, but you’re setting yourself apart from the competition.
  • Everyone’s in the same boat as you.
    You’re not the only one who might be nervous and you’re not the only one who doesn’t know anyone. Relax, talk to one person at a time, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
  • Being uncomfortable helps you grow.
    Networking situations still make me nervous, and that will probably never go away. But putting myself in scenarios where I’m uncomfortable has helped prepare me for other things down the road. Learning how to push the nerves aside and suck it up for a couple hours has helped tremendously, especially when it was time for job interviews. While my palms still get sweaty in social situations, I’ve slowly learned how to put on a smile and make friendly conversation.

 

But Why Does It Matter?

  • You build connections.
    Taking the hour or two to meet with new people will help you see what opportunities are available to you. Whether you’re a student looking for a job or a business looking for new clients, building those connections and getting your name out there is the fastest and strongest way to find people and places you might want to work with.
  • Get the chance to learn something new.
    Speaking engagements and social events alike, every networking event is another opportunity to better yourself or your business. Networking gives you the chance to learn, whether it be tangible facts to take with you or personal growth opportunities, at the end of the day you won’t lose.

If you’re just starting out, networking might seem like a big deal, but it’s only a big deal if you make it that way. Start small and take it a little bit at a time, soon enough you’ll learn how to deal with the nerves and you’ll feel a little better putting yourself out there. You don’t have to be a networking all-star, but making the extra effort to go to an event and meet a few people will help you get your name out there and stand apart from your competition.

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