Career Woman

How to let go of your fear of networking

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Think about the last time you went to a networking event. Did you meet new people and create new opportunities or did you just catch up with the same old faces and eat the same stale hors d’oeuvres? Did you dread the idea of even going and wonder whether your being there would serve any real purpose?

Even the most successful and extroverted women can struggle at these events, and have trouble tackling the idea of making the connections to build careers. Male dominated industry has got us on the back foot when it comes to breaking into a single conversation, let alone breaking into the “boys club”. That doesn’t mean we can let networking opportunities pass us by.

As an immigrant and a woman working within the tech space, I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider. At times, it’s like you need to offer more to every interaction to be deemed worthy of attention. Regardless of whether this is true, bringing this mentality to your networking and business development is going to make it so much harder. If you back yourself and embrace some simple strategies to make networking easier, eventually you’ll stop dreading it and start effectively building your career.

Here are the three tools I use to make business development and networking more achievable for me.

#1 Use your differences to stand out

Sometimes the best ice-breaker is a joke. I don’t mean you should start practicing your misogynistic comedy routine to get a few “old boy” laughs, but when you’re one of only a few women in the room, making light of the situation casts you as being at ease with the situation. Seeing you relaxed helps others unwind and primes them better for a conversation with you.

#2 Prepare for perfection

Arm yourself with information and you’ll be better able to see how and where connections can be made. The wonder of today is that you can look up the interests and careers of almost anyone you’re likely to meet. By knowing more about people before you meet them at events or follow them up after a lead, you’ll be better able to speak to topics that engage them. If I ever find myself without the time to research before an event, I like to linger at the registration table, and google a few name tags before I head in. This way I am always ready to approach someone and start a conversation they’ll want to be a part of.

#3 Get comfortable with networking as a mutually beneficial tool

If you feel like networking and “using people” are one and the same, you’re not alone. But you’re also subscribing to a thought pattern that will stop you from creating opportunities again and again. It’s easy to see why leveraging a network in the short term might feel selfish, but by networking you also have the opportunity to give back. Remind yourself that any new connections you make, have the potential to help you, but you also have the potential to help them and others in your network. By remembering that the day will come when you have the opportunity to “pay it forward” to your connections, you can push on with your business development without being hampered by guilt.

While these tips will help you get started, it is really a belief in yourself that will see you getting real value from networking and stop dreading business development. Back yourself, practise these tips and start making meaningful connections at your next event.

About Aksana Rusakova

NZ Director of APAC recruitment firm, Halcyon Knights, Aksana Rusakova leads a team dedicated to helping IT professionals further their careers. Committed to growing the ICT sector in New Zealand she builds networks to connect her clients with the people that can drive their businesses to the cutting edge. Passionate about advancing the cause of women in the tech sector, she combines the insights she’s gained as a leader, a mother and a recruiter to help others navigate their career paths.

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