You’ve heard the saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and whilst you can accept it’s probably true, you can’t help but feel a sense of dread at the prospect of being thrust into a room full of people you don’t know.

Sound familiar?

As the world becomes more interconnected and fast-paced, building and maintaining a strong network can be crucial to unlocking opportunities and growing your career. Whether it’s seeking a new job, career mentorship or expanding your knowledge base, your network can open doors that might otherwise remain closed to you.

However, for many of us, the idea of networking feels daunting and makes us want to run a mile. If this is you, read on for ways to banish those gremlins…

  • Networking doesn’t have to mean working a room or engaging in small talk for hours on end. Try to view networking as less about collecting business cards or Linked In contacts, and more about building genuine connections and nurturing meaningful relationships with colleagues and peers in your organisation and industry.
  • Look for smaller, more intimate gatherings where you can have meaningful conversations with people who share your interests. For example, seek out industry-specific groups, special interest groups, or women in business groups.
  • Think about what you want to get out of the networking events you go to – is it connections within your industry, or perhaps insights from keynote speakers? Going with a goal in mind can take the pressure off when it comes to small talk.
  • Lean in to active listening as a key strength – ask questions to show genuine interest and engagement when someone else is talking. When you’re curious about someone’s work, it’s easier to start a conversation.
  • If you’re more comfortable with 1:1 interactions, think about scheduling a coffee or informal chat with someone you want to get to know better and have within your network. Think about what value you can offer them, as well as what they can do for you.
  • Consider online networking platforms and events – take the pressure off face to face interactions and enjoy the comfort of your own home. Find online communities or forums that offer a virtual space to connect and engage with industry peers in group discussions.
  • Network through your network – ask your friends, family or colleagues to make an introduction for you (either in person or via email). A mutual connection can be a gentler way in and avoids that awkward first encounter.

Networking is a two-way street. It isn’t only about what you can gain from a relationship, think about how you can add value to others too. Whether it’s sharing your knowledge, offering support or making introductions, being generous with your time or expertise can strengthen your connections and boost your reputation and credibility.

If you’re seeking support to grow your career and navigate the world of work as an introvert, get in touch to see how I can help: