Post by Joan Lee, BizInc Intern
Does socializing seem like a drag? Are you too mortified to bring up “business” in a conversation? (Do you still worry about puking at your next networking event?)
As a current or future entrepreneur, you never know when you could meet someone that can help you and your business. But if you’re not really a social butterfly, these amazing opportunities for developing your business could quickly become an opportunity for feeding your nightmares. Thankfully, there are many ways to improve and cope with this. Here are a few tips to get you started:
4. Prepare yourself
Practice your self-introduction or your business pitch with yourself. Anticipate questions, and prepare some answers for them. If you’d like to try things out on someone else, ask a friend to help you practice.
But if you get your social heebie-jeebies from chatting up new people, friends aren’t going to help much. Instead, you should also try talking to “low-danger” strangers like baristas. As students, it’s also pretty easy for us to strike up a conversation with people on campus too!
While you’re doing all of this, make sure you remember to…
3. Change your mindset
Many students unfamiliar with networking don’t like it. They think that networking is insincere, manipulative, and cold—when actually, it’s the complete opposite! Networking is all about building intimate, sincere relationships based on mutual generosity – after all, no one can achieve their career goals completely on their own. The idea is that they will help you now, and you’ll help them later, all while fostering a relationship that could help the both of you for years afterward.
However, some other students don’t network because they lack confidence, fear rejection, or think they’re unworthy. If you’re in this category, you don’t just need to change your mindset about networking, you also need to change your mindset about yourself. First off…
2. Don’t take things personally!
To the nervous networker, networking is a minefield of danger after danger after danger. You need to approach a stranger, then talk to them, then you have maintain the conversation and keep up a good impression… and after all that, you still need to ask them for help. (Not to mention there’s that evil voice at the back of your head, telling you all the ways that this person could torpedo your business/career before if you piss them off…)
Whenever you notice your thoughts wandering down this path, I want you to stop. Then start saying these three words to yourself:
REJECTION IS OKAY.
It’s bound to happen – not even the most socially skilled person gels with everyone. And sometimes, there isn’t a mutual meeting of needs when you talk to someone, or they can’t think of anyone else who could help you. And sometimes, people are just plain mean. So don’t take things personally. Just keep trudging on, doing your thing.
On that note…
1. Don’t Apologize for Everything
You don’t need to apologize for asking for help, or wanting to learn more about a person. Networking doesn’t force anything onto anyone—it’s relationship building. This is because you’re not asking them for a favour, it’s mutual generosity. You scratch my back, I scratch yours.
If you insist on constantly saying sorry, it only shows how unprofessional and unconfident you are. It gets annoying pretty fast.
After all, there is no such thing as not being worth someone’s time. And if they are already talking to you, then they have already decided you’re worth their time without you having to convince them!
In conclusion: Keep your head up, my fellow socially-awkward networker. It’s really not as hard (or as bad) as you think!