Networking is an important part of the job search but many people freeze or panic at the thought of it. So here are 5 tips that will help you get started if you’re shy or feel out of your comfort zone. They apply whether attending a networking event or making a cold call.

  1. Plan: Decide on a goal. You need to know that your uncomfortableness has been worth it. Who do you need to speak to and why? Is it, one particular person, as many people as possible or just two people so you can feel proud for stepping out of your networking comfort zone?
  2. Research: Before attending an event or picking up the phone, do some research so you can have informed conversations. Do you have a connection in common? Did you both go to the same university or come from the same town? Can you help them with a work issue?
  3. Prepare Questions: Come up with a list of five questions so you feel in control of the conversation and to ensure you get the information you need. But remember, the aim is to make warm contacts and genuine connections. So, also come up with a list of questions you can ask people, not on your target list. At a face to face event the first question shouldn’t always be ‘what do you do for a living’, but can be ‘what do you do for fun, do you have anything nice planned for the weekend or do you live locally?’ Taking the initial focus off work can help others and yourself feel more at ease.
  4. Practice how you come across: In a few succinct sentences be able to say ‘who you are, what you do and why you do it’. Also, think about something you can add in to help you be remembered and broaden the conversation.
  5. Be physically confident: Make sure you know what the dress code is. If you’re nervous and stressed it will show. Check your body language. Chin up, back straight, shoulders back. If you’re making a phone call stand up. Smile! Studies have shown that your body language can affect your mood. Confident body language will make you feel more confident.
  6. Expand your network. Networking is a two-way thing. It’s important to remember that each conversation is one of opportunity and possibility for each party. Ask the people you meet, ‘Who else do you know that it would be good for me to speak to?’ Offer up any contacts you have that may be useful to them. This will broaden both of your networks.

So go on, break out of your comfort zone and give it a try. Don’t look back and regret.

Jenny Butter is an Accredited Senior Coach and is the founder of Epiphany Life Coaching. She has significant experience in both career and life coaching and enjoys enabling clients to become energized, fulfilled and thrive at both work and home.