5 Things You Can Learn From My First Networking Event
Networking? Meeting new people? No. thank. you.
Those are the first thoughts that come to my mind when I hear about going for a networking event. I'm shy by nature so being asked to be in a roomful of strangers is not the most exciting prospect.
Well, as life has it, you often have to do to things you don't want to do, or choose to do things you don't normally want to do, so you step out of your comfort zone and grow a little more.
So, I went for my first networking event. And you know what, I lived to tell the story, totally unscathed.
Here is what I learnt from that networking event:
1. Most people are nice
Really. Most people are nice. They are not (unfriendly) sharks or lions or bears waiting to eat you. At the event, there were people just as new to networking and nervous as I was. There were also seasoned professionals who were friendly and genuine about getting to know who I was and what I do.
2. Guided networking sessions are easy (or easier) to start with
The event I went to was purely about meeting new people and they guided us through a structured time. All of us were given 3 minutes to chat with someone. They then rang a bell and we had to exchange partners. The great thing about this especially if you're not talkative, is that you only had to last for 3 minutes before moving on to the next person. It helped keep any awkwardness at bay.
3. You don't need to be super interesting
You just need to be interested. Come armed with a few questions that almost anyone can answer. A basic one is What do you do for work? When the person answers, you can follow up with questions such as Tell me more. What do you like about it? What is one of the challenges? You can also ask How did you hear about this event? A good trick is when someone asks you something, after replying, point the question back at them – How about you?
4. It's good to have friends
Imagine travelling to a completely new country and feeling lost. Being alone in such a situation can be lonely and sometimes terrifying. But imagine being with a friend – even if you're both lost, at least you have someone to smile with, discuss options with, and be with. The same goes with an event where you don't know anyone. You may feel a bit lost, but when you are with a friend, you can spur or challenge each other. So I'd encourage you to convince a friend to come along.
5. It's okay to be nervous
The first step is to just try, and be proud that you gave it a go. Each time you do it, it gets better. I still wouldn't be the first eager person to put my hand up for a networking event, but I would still go because it's an opportunity to push myself beyond my comfort zone – what's the point of staying where I am and looking back in 10 years to find out I'm still at the same ol' place? Boring.
When I think about the above points, I'm reminded that things aren't always that intimidating and can turn out better than we thought they would, so why not give it a try? Well, I'll be going for another event soon. It's not a networking event but still, it’s one where I’ll be in a roomful of strangers – except the one colleague I’ve invited to come with me (refer to point 4)!
Networking can be overwhelming and not everyone feels comfortable straight away. But there are ways to overcome these nerves and our mentors can provide you with assistance and support to help you deal with these pre nerves. Speak to one of our mentors today.