Networking Tips For the Shy Girl

For the woman who has trouble introducing herself without stumbling over her words, the term “networking” is the content of nightmares. This can be a struggle, especially in a world where new job opportunities essentially require some relationship with the company. Personally, I’ve found many jobs, and been able to connect my peers with opportunities, through networking. This journey was not an easy one. To this day, I still have difficulty finding the courage to start conversations and unapologetically market myself to strangers. While it may sound intimidating, mastering the art of networking can have benefits throughout both personal and professional life. 

Quiet does not equate to being unapproachable. The ability to start conversations and invite new connections to join your social circle is an important one, but an unrealistic expectation for the girl beginning networking. Talking is not humanity’s only source of communication. Use unspoken signals to present yourself as friendly, and practice good listening techniques. This can be accomplished through good posture, a clean outfit, a light smile, and slow, controlled movements. 

Once a conversation has started, it’s easy to panic. You begin asking yourself “what am I going to say next?” or “what if there’s awkward silence?”. Instead of focusing on what your response will be, conjure a question. Prompt your conversation partner to answer questions, almost in the form of an interview. This takes the pressure off you to add to the conversation and allows for a more natural rapport to develop. People enjoy talking about themselves. They’ll associate this positive feeling with your person, increasing the likelihood they’ll have a positive opinion about you during recall.

Practice your people skills in public. There are so many people, including myself, that fear approaching others, even when it may be necessary. The introvert’s curse is mighty but can be broken. Compliment the stranger’s shoes as they pass by you. Wave down the server and ask for more napkins. Smile and gesture at the peer you had in class last semester. Ask the grocery store worker where to find an item on your list. These small encounters aid in rewiring your brain to stop associating human interaction with fear. Once this becomes easier, approaching a coworker or supervisor won’t seem so overwhelming. 

They are as afraid of you as you are of them. While there are some naturally self-assured people walking among us, many are feigning confidence. Reminding yourself of this can help put your mind at ease when networking. Especially when working with other young adults, most everyone is just using the “fake it ‘til you make it” method of success. After this realization hits, the intimidation factor will decrease dramatically. The people you interact with within a networking setting are often friendly and outgoing, so no real harm can come from a conversation. A helpful trick may be to replace your conversation partner with a non-threatening character you’re already comfortable with. If it is difficult for you to imagine talking with a 50-something for more than five minutes, recall your conversations with parents or family members. Use these conversation tactics to guide the interaction between you and the other person. 

You are just as valuable to them as they are to you. This is a big one that many people don’t seem to grasp. Networking is not a one-way street. Everyone has something to offer for another. While you may hope for job opportunities and career pointers, they might just be looking for a fresh conversation different from the typical office small talk. Every person is unique and has lived a different life. The retiree often has the advice to offer the young adult, but the young adult does not lack insight altogether. 

Know the value of what you have to offer and sell your heart out. I’d also suggest a nice comfortable pair of heels.