How To Network If You Have Social Anxiety

Networking is a big part of my job; I have to find new people to volunteer at our school events, and I need to make more people aware of what our social enterprise is trying to do.

It may surprise people, but I’ve not always found this an easy thing to do. While I do like meeting new people, in a formal situation like this it can cause some anxiety.

Today I’d like to share things that will help you deal with networking if you don’t feel comfortable meeting new people. They are steps that I use a lot, and they’ve really helped me get ahead in my job.

The first step to getting to grips with these situations is to understand what mental blocks are preventing you from getting stuck in. Ask yourself what fears you have – what things do you worry about, that’s blocking your way. For me, I fear mainly coming off as stupid, by saying the wrong thing or by not knowing anything about the topic of conversation.

Once you can articulate what barriers you have, you can try to create strategies to overcome them. At networking events everyone has the same aim – to meet new people and learn about what they do. Even if I “fail” and say the wrong thing, I can move to a different conversation group.

Of course, sometimes it is next to impossible to rationalise anxious thoughts. If you are unable to get through the mental blockages then that’s perfectly fine. Try the other tips and see if you can come back to this.

Confidence is, of course, a huge help in these situations. I don’t always feel confident, but I have strategies to help me get into the right frame of mind so that I can at least put myself out there. The first thing I do is listen to music to put myself in the mood. I love a bit of Macklemore to get me going but I’ve been listening to Chance the Rapper a lot recently and his song Blessings is really helpful. As a non-religious person, I hear this as – if you have positivity in what you do then positive things will happen to you.

The power pose is something I often use as well. Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on why it works is much more informative than anything I can tell you, but I use this post both privately (maybe in the bathroom before a challenge) but also at work when I want to be heard more, when I want to be more assertive.

So if you have gathered enough confidence to go do networking and you have broken into a conversation. Someone turns to you and asks about you.

Ach! What to say?!

My advice is to always go into these situations with an elevator pitch.

This is a 1-2 minute practised piece that you can give to anyone, encouraging them to help you do whatever it is you want them to do. It could be that you want them to learn more about your brand, or for them to give you advice on your next career move.

Structure your pitch as: who you are, what you want, why they should give it to you.

This could sound like this “My name is Charlotte, I work at a social enterprise that brings businesses and schools together, guiding the next generation while preparing your future pipeline. I’d love to tell you more about the events I manage and how they can help you and your business”.

You can keep your elevator pitch in your pocket ready for when you meet someone who can help you. Practice it until it rolls off the tongue.

If the idea of networking events is just too far out of your comfort zone, it’s good to network within the people you already know. Being open about your goals is a really useful thing – and not one we often do. It sometimes feels that if we say our aims out loud, it means they won’t come true.

However, if you do speak to friends and family about your plans, they may know people who can help, whether it’s someone in the industry you want to go in, someone who has taken similar steps, or someone who is able to mentor you until you have the characteristics you need to get to where you want to be.

Lastly, with all these things, it’s always best to not only be yourself but to be authentic. You’ll draw in more people this way, and by being truthful about what you aim to achieve as well as your own situation, you’ll be able to receive better help from those you meet.

So, to recap, here are strategies you can use to overcome the fear of networking and meeting new people:

Understand your mental blocks and see if you can ease them.

Boost your brain’s confidence by doing things like listening to music, or doing the power pose.

Have an elevator pitch that you know by heart.

Network within the people you already know by being honest about your goals and what you aim to do.

Be authentic.

Do you have to network as part of your job? Do you have some tips? Let me know in the comments!

 

Comments

  1. As I’m about to start job hunting again, for the first time in fifteen years, this is all stuff I need to keep in mind. And I do have social and travel anxiety, despite how I appear on the blog. 😀
    Steven recently posted…That time my car got stolen.My Profile

    • Charlotte says:

      Blogs can be deceiving. Everyone thinks I’m super outgoing and super happy living an amazing life and when I tell people that actually, I’m really unhappy at times, and struggle dealing with people, they’re shocked.

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