I have a problem. I'm in communications, yet I'm terrified of networking. I'm not sure where this fear comes from, either. I'm not shy and I can hold my own on various topics, however the idea of walking up to someone and starting a conversation gives me major anxiety. As a communications professional, you can understand the various ways this hinders my career development.
Recently, I've been chatting with new connections in hopes of gaining nuggets of advice about getting over my fear. One of the most valuable conversations I've had was with Alissa Trumbull (@AnOrchidInBloom) who recently took a #ConnectIRL tour. We spoke over the phone before meeting during her trip to Boston, and I left both conversations feeling more confident and purposeful in my ability to connect with others. Alissa has incredible networking knowledge, and though I'd love to be selfish and keep it to myself, I need to share what I learned.
Alissa's first piece of advice is to be purposeful. It's a waste of everyone's time if you're connecting with people just to say you've met them. Determine where you want to end up, and ask yourself who can help you get there. If you're intentional in who you're connecting with, you will leave conversations feeling supported and fulfilled, as opposed to exhausted and let down.
This is also important when people are reaching out to you. Alissa quoted Social Strategist and Trainer Chris Barrows (@CBarrows) when she reminded me not to feel guilty about declining a networking invitation. "Sometimes you have to focus on your own networking goals, not other people's."
I told Alissa one of the things that gives me anxiety is the idea of imposing on somebody. I don't want to annoy them so I don't reach out at all. She reminded me to think of things from their perspective. How great would you feel if someone sought you out and told you you're the exact person they want to learn from? Pretty great I'm sure. Most people are honored when others want to hear about their lives, careers, journeys or insight.
One of the greatest things I learned over that conversation, and through meeting Alissa in person, is that my fear of networking may never actually go away, and that's okay. "You just have to jump," she said.
What are your greatest networking tips? Let me know!
P.S. Read more about Alissa's #ConnectIRL tour here!