#1. Networking, at its best, is not a means to an end; it’s a life-enriching exercise that allows you to find and build relationships with people you like, care to know better, want to see more often, want to support, and who want to support you too. It’s about quality, not quantity.
#2. Networking beginners can ease their way into networking and get great results by finding groups whose purpose is in creating connections, or social or special-interest related groups where there is a shared vision, mission, or hobby.
#3. In order to optimally leverage your network to create opportunity, inform them on how your uniqueness creates hard business value and emotional benefits, AND demonstrate your value by creating an opportunity for them. [A formula and question script was provided last week.]
#4. Making new connections does not mean you have to ditch your old ones.
#5. Go to events with an idea of who you want to talk to, what you might ask/say, and what outcome you want most, but stay open to unexpected experiences and people, too.
Now let’s start with a new lesson:
Being magnetic in a moment is a reflection of how well you have cared for and valued yourself.
No matter how comfortable you try to make networking as a beginner, it still requires you to be vulnerable, open, and brave. With practice and reinforcement of positive results, you will build confidence, naturally be open to trying more new things, and become more immune to people who are not receptive. Until then, self-doubts you have are most likely going to emerge, and you will have to consciously overcome them.
They show up in the following ways:
- Beforehand when you look through who are attending, speaking, and sponsoring, and you question if/why any of these people would really want to speak with you.
- As you are mentally rehearsing it going exactly as you want it to, but remember previous awkward moments and wonder if you’ll be able to pull off being cool or if they’ll see right through you.
- When logistics of going or arriving on time get complicated or screwed up and you wonder if the universe is trying to tell you to stay home so you can save yourself from some disastrous experience.
- As you arrive and realize you forgot the names of the people you want to meet and what you prepared to say.
- When you spot the person you want to meet, but they are surrounded by other people vying for his or her attention and you wonder, again, why you would be of any interest among all those other people and what you could possibly say to make yourself memorable among them.
- As you leave, even though you might feel proud and happy with new connections you made, you start to review your conversations over again in your head, wondering if you said something offensive, if you used the wrong word, said the wrong name, or if they’ll find out you really don’t know as much about something as you tried to make it seem.
- When a conversation leans toward opinions on potentially divisive or controversial topics or other people, and you wonder if you’ll put your foot in your mouth.
- When you go to follow up and you realize that, if this person doesn’t respond, you’ll be wondering what you might have done to turn them off, if you’re likable, or if you came off as negative, uninteresting, needy, nerdy, etc.
If it sounds like I’ve been there from the level of detail I gave, the answer is, “Oh yes”. And, even though I have a thriving network and have been teaching others how to network now for 13 years, these thoughts still pop up. I have just become better at recognizing them and shutting them down. I also realized that I don’t want to shut them down all the way since I could do quite a bit with self-hypnosis to replace these thoughts with more self-affirming thoughts. Self-affirming thoughts are good, and I believe we could all use more of them. However, my personal growth goal is to become even more emotionally intelligent and self-aware. So, I’d rather be better at distinguishing what I say and do from who I am, and be more conscious of having conversations that enhance rapport and add value. I also have to know when to leave the past in the past and move on, or I could analyze myself into anxiety.
I certainly don’t mean to scare you. Knowing ahead of time when lapses in self-confidence can occur enables you to apply some of the following tools to quickly recover and put yourself back in action to make good things happen.
Tool #1: Breathing
You’ve probably heard this one before, but you could probably benefit from being reminded. It’s simple, but not always easy to remember in the moment. Stress and anxiety are contagious. Taking in deep, slow breaths is the fastest way to calm your thoughts and your nervous system, and to lower your blood pressure. The increase in oxygen to your brain will also enable you to exercise better judgment, minimizing those cringe-worthy moments. Take a little trip to the bathroom or a mini-walk outside, if possible, and notice how much better you feel, which will make people feel better around you.
Tool #2: Affirmations/Mantras
If talking to yourself sounds stupid, remember that you do it anyway. Sometimes what you say to yourself is worse than what you would ever say out loud to anyone else. When you notice those thoughts of self-doubt, replace them with affirmation. For example, if you start to wonder why anyone would want to take time out to return your phone call, literally ask yourself this question, then answer as though you were your biggest fan. “I have great ideas and genuinely care about helping others achieve their goals.” Over time you may notice some thoughts of self-doubt are more frequent than others. Journaling really helps increase your self-awareness of this. Adopt an empowering mantra that you can repeat several times a day every day.
Tool #3: Your Biofield
There is still so much to learn about the biofield, which is an energetic emittance around our physical body. It has been proven to exist and can be detected and measured by machines, but can’t be seen with the human eye, much like the earth’s atmosphere. Our biofield reacts and responds to other people’s biofields, as observed at a cellular level. Much in the same way anxiety and stress are contagious, so are other emotions. If we want to inspire affection of others, we can heighten our own affection for and connection with others by tuning into those emotions. Take a moment to imagine that pure love is emanating from your heart and reaching out to each and every person in the room. Imagine yourself accepting them with all of their imperfections and qualities, and that they have the capacity to accept you, too. It doesn’t hurt to send out a mental wish as you do this, that the people who want and need you will reveal themselves and make a connection with you.
Tool #4: Humility
Competitive people may find that they get more immediate results by putting themselves in a competitive mindset, but aggressive tactics can backfire in the long run. I had advised you to create a goal and turn it into a game, but that’s only to infuse fun into the activity. If you put too serious of a game face on, you may muscle some people into taking the next step, but find a lag in follow-through.
Too much confidence is a known rapport blocker. Overcompensating for a lack of confidence can be perceived as overconfidence. People will genuinely relate to you more if you don’t pretend to be anything you’re not. You’re likely to elicit more support and help by admitting that you’re nervous, not sure what to say, or that you’re new to networking.
If something comes out of your mouth that you wish you hadn’t said, call yourself out on it. Get yourself back into a high intention. Ask for a re-do. Most people find that people who take accountability for their mistakes are more trustworthy than those who defend themselves.
If it’s too late, learn from it, and leave it in the past. The Hawaiian practice of ho’oponopono has really helped me to stop driving myself crazy with regret and remorse, especially when there’s no opportunity to apologize and make things right. It’s also very simple. Repeat:
I love you
I forgive you
Tool #5: Trust
Trust that the perfect moment will present itself, but in the case it doesn’t, decide on a make or break play. I can hear other coaches now, “No, no, no. They have to make it happen.” Well, let’s call this an experiment. I have found that when I intend to go to something to meet someone and find that many others are vying for their attention, if I force something to happen it feels forced – not genuine or memorable in a good way, and not a great start to deepening a connection. However, if I instead reassure myself that the perfect moment will unfold and decide to enjoy conversations with other people in the meantime, synchronicity is in my favor and, not only do I get to have an interaction with the person, but there is a more welcoming space and context, a more natural flow of conversation, and more enthusiastic and specific follow up that leads to mutual synergy. I’m also calmer and tend to attract better-unexpected connections.
I tested this at the MindValley Reunion in 2017. Instead of pushing my way to the front so that I could find a good seat first when they opened the doors to let us in for speakers, I trusted that wherever I was in line, I would find a good seat. I got a front-row seat twice and within the first five rows all except for one time out of six. I also got to meet five of the speakers in serendipitous encounters where no one else was competing for their attention. Vishen even stopped to ask me a question (after he whiffed on my high five – yes – I tried to high five Vishen, and I forgave myself.)
You don’t have to be suave, a world-class conversationalist, or the most interesting person in the world to expand your network. You don’t have to have the noblest of goals to inspire people’s help. You don’t have to be any particular way, any status, or be at any particular stage in your career. You can just be you. Of course, take the steps to be your best you, but everyone has off moments, and they don’t define you. However, the people that you meet have the potential to help you create a life that you do define. If you never take the chance of meeting them, you automatically eliminate that potential.
Next week, we’ll cover how following up best practices convert momentary magic into long-lasting opportunity.
Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.