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  • What to Do When You’re Afraid of Networking

    Does the thought of entering a crowded room filled with strangers make your palms sweat?

    Networking is a fear many people share. Some would even say it’s one of the scariest steps of finding a job. Whether it’s getting freaked out by small talk or the fear of forgetting someone’s name, networking can be a scary thing to do.

    If you’re feeling spooked by networking this month, here are some tips that can help you become a fearless networker:

    1. Use the magic of Twitter.

    If you’re not ready to go to in-person networking events, Twitter can be a great resource for connecting with people in your industry.

    Use Twitter to participate in industry Twitter chats, search for professionals in your area, and coordinate a meet-up. Twitter can also be used to share industry-related content and engage in conversations with people in your social network. By using Twitter, you’ll connect with more people in your industry that you wouldn’t have been able to in-person.

    2. Attend fun networking events.

    Networking doesn’t have to consist of standing around in a dull room while sipping on cocktails and making small talk. There are actually a variety of fun ways to network without being in a boring environment.

    Consider attending networking events such as happy hours hosted by professional organizations in your city, going to an alumni mixer, or getting involved with volunteering opportunities. These are some fun ways to meet new people without having to stress about networking.

    3. Host your own networking event.

    Can’t find a networking event that fits your needs? Why not host your own?

    Hosting your own networking is quite simple. Find a location in your city such as a local coffee shop or restaurant and invite 10 of your colleagues to attend. This is a casual what to get a group of people together to mingle in a relaxed environment.

    4. Avoid networking events altogether.

    Instead of focusing on strictly attending networking events, consider going to conferences, workshops, or speaker events where you will meet professionals in your industry. These events will give you opportunities to make new connections without having to directly focus on networking.

    5. Stop the small talk.

    Do you feel pressured to learn about current events or the latest football scores when you prepare for a networking event? If so, you’re going about small talk the wrong way.

    Instead of focusing on making small talk, shift your focus to learning about the people you meet. Spark conversations with people by asking about their jobs, what they enjoy doing for fun, or why they like their jobs. These conversations will become more meaningful and you’ll learn more about the people you meet.

    6. Less is more.

    Stop feeling like you need to collect 20 business cards when you go to a networking event. Instead, focus on making one or two strong bonds with the new people you meet. This relationships will become more valuable in the future.

    By following these tips, networking should become less scary and more enjoyable. Remember, networking is about building valuable relationships with people who can become friends and mentors.

    Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president ​of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. She is also the author of#ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), national entry-level careers columnist forExaminer.com and blogs about career advice at HeatherHuhman.com.

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