It's no secret that networking is a key part of career advancement. But if you feel awkward and uncomfortable, you're less likely to take advantage of it.
The problem is that besides job performance, networking is probably the most important factor in finding a new job or getting a promotion. In some cases it's even more important than performance, since being able to work well with someone isn't something you can learn.
That means it's time to learn how to effectively meet people who can influence your career. You may never feel at ease while networking, but if you follow these five tips, no one will know it except you:
- Let your clothes do the talking. It's hard to feel confident when you're wearing something that doesn't fit or that you know has a hard-to-see-but-not-invisible stain. Take the time to dress the way you want people to see you, and your attitude will adjust as well.
- Ask questions. One of the most uncomfortable aspects of networking is meeting someone for the first time, and then wondering what to talk about. Here's the thing: People love to talk about themselves, so ask about their practice, their work history, or their hobbies. Just make sure you're listening to the answers.
- Avoid personal topics. Nothing makes a conversation uncomfortable faster than giving out too much personal information. Once you've crossed the "TMI" line, it's hard to go back, so better to just steer clear of overly personal topics if you can.
- Set up a vcard. A vcard, or virtual business card, means you'll never have to awkwardly fumble through your pockets or your purse looking for the crumpled business card you just gave away. Just direct people to your online business card and resume.
- Put yourself out there. The secret of networking is that almost everyone feels as uncomfortable as you do. So take charge of the situation by introducing yourself first. Talk to the people sitting around you, the person in front of you in line, and the interesting panel speaker who has a job that you want. That will put everyone else at ease, and will make networking less awkward as well.
- A Drink-by-Drink Guide to Success at Legal Networking Events (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- Should New Law Grads Get Networking Cards for Their Job Search? (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- Why You Should Do Pro Bono Work (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)