5 Networking Tips for Non-Networkers

Attending a professional networking event has never really paid off for you. Sure, you’ve heard how important it is for career advancement or finding a job, but the thought of rubbing shoulders with strangers makes you nervous.

Even if you manage to approach a contact, you’re unsure of what to say, and the experience is uncomfortable. You’re what might be called a “non-networker.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most successful people say they wouldn’t have gotten as far without the solid connections they’ve made, so there’s ample reason to improve your networking skills.

The following five networking tips can help you to check your nervousness at the door:

1. Give it some forethought. Before an event, make a list of people you want to meet. Many event coordinators post the names of attendees online so you can review the guest list beforehand. Look up people who sound interesting to see if they’ve written blogs or other online content. Jot down some notes about each person that could be used as the basis for a potential discussion. Many events also use hashtags on Twitter so attendees can connect before (and during) the event.

2. Tailor your approach. Rehearse your introductions and tailor them for each person you’re targeting. For instance:

  • “Hi, I’m Sabrina. I’m an accountant with XYZ firm. Our firm does work for your company. I’ve seen you copied on some email messages, and I wanted to introduce myself since we’ve never met in person."
  • “Hi, I’m Sabrina. I’m an accountant at XYZ firm. I believe you know my manager, Sue Smith. I noticed you two are connected on LinkedIn. How do you know Sue?”
  • “Hi, I’m Sabrina. I’m an accountant at XYZ firm. I saw you speak at last year’s conference. I really enjoyed your presentation. Will you be speaking at the next event?”

3. Know the line between professional and cold. You’ll want to appear as professional as possible, but that doesn’t mean you should hide your personality. Quite the opposite: let it shine through. Meeting someone who seems “all business” is not appealing for most people. Allow conversations to flow naturally and act as if you were building a relationship with a new friend.

4. Remember to follow up. Don’t wait too long to reconnect when you meet people you’d like to be in your network. Strike while the iron is hot and the conversation you had is still fresh in their minds. Rather than calling new contacts, send brief hello emails or personalized LinkedIn requests.

5. Don’t take it personally. If you don’t hear back from someone after a couple of attempts it likely means they’re not interested in staying connected. But instead of dwelling on the ones that got away, focus on continuing to strengthen relationships with connections that panned out.

The more you network, the easier it’ll get. If you were once a non-networker and have learned some helpful tips, please share a comment below.