Overcoming Networking Anxiety

If the thought of increased networking over the holidays overwhelms you with a blast of wintery air, don’t panic.  You are not alone.  Forget the word networking and focus on having conversations.  Here’s some advice to help you thrive in the holiday networking frenzy.

Arrive Early – It can be overwhelming to arrive at the door of a packed room with conversations buzzing around you.  Don’t put yourself in that situation.  Arrive early so you can engage others as they arrive, a few at a time.  You will be so busy chatting that you will not even notice the room filling up around you.

Target Lone Individuals – If breaking into a group conversation intimidates you, find the lone individuals in the room and engage them in a conversation.  Making them feel more at ease will help increase your comfort level as well.

Be Prepared – Plan in advance how you wish to introduce yourself and what you most want people to remember about you.  If you have a registration list in advance, identify the people you are most interested in meeting and do a bit a research so you have relevant questions prepared.

Have conversation starters prepared – Your goal is to put yourself and the other person at ease by avoiding the awkward pause after the introductions.  Be prepared to take control of the conversation.  Have some questions prepared to start the conversation.  Most people enjoy talking about themselves and their work if you give them the opportunity.  Avoid mundane topics like the weather.  Ask questions that will get the person talking and will provide you valuable insights.

  • How long have you been with the company and what made you decide to join them?
  • What do you enjoy most in your current role?
  • How did you decide to pursue a career in this field?
  • What advice do you have for a student considering a career in this field?
  • What career path led you to your current position?

For conversations that are less job focused, consider the following:

  • What is the best book you’ve read in the past year and why?
  • Where to you go on your most recent vacation and what did you enjoy most about the trip?
  • Have you always lived in this area, if not, where else have you lived?
  • What interesting fact can you share about yourself that I wouldn’t find online?
  • Where is your favorite place to eat and why?
  • What do you enjoy doing most when you are not working?
  • If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be and why?

These types of questions are guaranteed to get the conversation flowing.  Be prepared the answer these for yourself if they turn the tables on you.

Enjoy the conversation – Stop thinking about it as networking and enjoy the conversation.  Ask relevant follow up questions.  Be a good listener.  When it is time to move on, thank the person for the time.  If you know others in the room, offer to make introductions.

Do not add stress to your busy holiday season by worrying about holiday networking.  Approach your networking opportunities as conversations and enjoy one conversation at a time.

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