It’s not what you know, but who you know. Who you know can mean the difference in whether or not your end up reaching your future dreams and goals. There are so many reasons why networking is important, personally and professionally. Whether you want to stand out from the crowd during your job search, rise the ranks at your current company or just have a good support network to be there for you when you need it. I know that I would not be where I am today in my professional journey if I had not made networking a top priority in my life when I was graduating from college and as I started working at my first job. Networking helped me land an internship during college that turned into a full time job and helped me get promoted at my first job. I also built a great support network at my church and that network helped me through a tough time that I went through. No matter where you are in life, you can’t get around the fact that networking is crucial to your success and personal well being.
So what are the barriers that might be holding you back from networking?
1. The first barrier that might be in your way is that you never know what to say. I hate that awkward introduction and I not knowing what to say to people I don’t know. The key here is to be genuine, not think about yourself and what you are going to talk about and instead think about what you want to ask and learn about other people instead. People are just as scared as you in the room and why not make others feel better and take the focus off of you and onto them.
2. Another barrier may be if you are an introvert. An introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people. If you are an introvert like me, it is hard to be open and let strangers into your life. To network, you have to be open and curious. You must also show up and be present in all conversations. Sometimes the hardest part is getting to the event but you will be glad you did once you get there. Meet one person and start speaking with them and asking questions. This way, it will be easier to meet others since you know one person very well. Also, don't be afraid to speak up if you have something to say.
3. Another barrier is thinking you are way too busy to network I know I am exhausted after work. This was my biggest pitfall. I am often too busy with work and school to reach out and connect with someone over lunch or a quick dinner. You have to make networking a priority, which is why I always scheduled networking events and meetings into my calendar so that I got in the habit of meeting people for lunch or dinner and not going directly home after work.
How did I get over my networking barriers? It all stated at the beginning of 2011, when I was preparing to graduate from business school and trying to figure out the next step in my career. I knew that networking would be a key to success in the job search, but I also knew I was—and still am—an introvert, and the prospect of meeting new people has never been easy for me. Still, I was determined to knock down my barriers to networking and meet the people who would help me reach my dreams and goals. So I decided to embark on a networking challenge where every month, I would meet with four people I already knew but would like to get to know even better, as well as four completely new people. I called it the 4×4 Networking Challenge.
And at the end of 2011, I added 48 new people to my network and strengthened relationships with 48 friends, co-workers, and family members. Not to mention, a year of networking like crazy gave me a lot of valuable insights on what it takes to be a good networker—something I never thought I’d be able to claim.
If you are ready to reach your dreams and goals and take your networking to the next level, challenge yourself to a networking challenge. Write it down, find an accountability partner and start today!Classy Career Girl, a blog written by Anna Runyan, provides advice to young professionals on how to be classy as they climb the corporate ladder. Her blog covers topics such as business chic fashion, career motivation, personal development, networking, and office etiquette. Connect with her at http://www.classycareergirl.com