For millions of people, the art of networking just does not come naturally. Most view it as a process that is only needed when you are unemployed and looking for a job. You never really hear about networking while you are gainfully employed, although that is when your networking activities should actually start… before you need a new position. So what do you do if you are unemployed or nearing a separation with your company? Here are five tips for the reluctant networker:
1. Take small bites.
If the thought of walking into a room full of people is overwhelming, try to network in a more comfortable atmosphere. Discuss your skills and accomplishments with friends, family, and members of your community. Ask if they can connect you to others who can help you acquire the information you need.
2. Buddy with someone who is comfortable networking.
Find a partner who is more outgoing than you. Invite him to a networking event and follow his lead, but don’t cling to him all evening. When you’re ready, branch out on your own and make plans to “check in” periodically throughout the event. At the end of the event share information about the contacts you met with your buddy to maximize the value of the event.
3. Practice your pitch.
You can improve your comfort level with networking dramatically by practicing ahead of time. Think through a brief statement about yourself that communicates your unique skills and value added. Don’t talk about the tasks and don’t just give your name, rank, and serial number. Be bold and discuss how you solve your clients’ problems.
4. Read books and articles on networking.
Arm yourself with the latest information on the topic. Highlight concepts, themes, and scripts that can help you prepare and be comfortable with your networking skills.
5. Take a public speaking class.
Join a group that allows you to practice your public speaking skills in a supportive, non-threatening environment. Groups such as Toastmasters International offer a variety of meetings and venues to practice these skills. You can find clubs at www.toastmasters.org.
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