February 3, 2017, by Laura
Shy or Confident? Three Employer Tried and Tested Networking Tricks
By Laura Sage, final year, BA Hons English
I recently attended an employer-led presentation about networking, given by John Owen from Royal Bank of Scotland. It was a concise and very helpful talk about how to make the most of a networking event. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert – or as John explained a ‘cat’ or a ‘dog’ – there was something for everyone. Here are the tips I found particularly useful:
Confidence is important. Although John stressed that it is okay if you are shy as long as you present yourself confidently. He asked the room for a show of hands as to who would feel confident speaking to a stranger about any topic. The majority of hands in the room remained lowered. This was a reassuring activity to start with, as it shows that most people struggle with confidence. Shyness is not an unusual trait. However, there are steps you can take to overcome it:
- Have a positive mental attitude – tell yourself you are confident, and you will come across as confident; tell yourself you are shy and nervous, and that’s how you’ll appear
- Practise in front of a mirror – watch yourself talk and see if you can adjust yourself to appear more confident: a more upright posture perhaps, or a change of outfit, can work wonders
- Don’t mumble, but also don’t shout – keep your voice clear and calm, so that you are easy to understand
- There are two types of people you will come across at networking events: dogs and cats – a dog is somebody who is enthusiastic, has a lot to say, facilitates conversation and makes a lot of eye contact. A cat on the other hand is someone who has less to say, makes less eye contact, and is essentially shy. The latter are people you may wish to avoid at networking events if you are shy because they may make you feel more nervous – dogs will make you feel comfortable. It is a good idea to practise networking with dogs
- Bring something new or interesting to the conversation – employers will have met hundreds of people like you with your credentials. You need to stand out in their memory, so bring something new to the table
- Research the individual or company beforehand so that you can demonstrate your knowledge and interest in their work
- Be positive and focus on topics you know about so that you don’t come across as uncertain
- Ask open-ended questions – questions that begin with where, what, when, where, and how. A yes/no question won’t take the conversation anywhere
- Leave enough conversation for a follow up – don’t burn through every possible topic so that you are left without a reason to keep in contact
3. Follow up
- End the conversation on a high and with an intention to follow it up elsewhere
- Enter your email address into their phone rather than simply handing them a business card – they are less able to lose your information this way
- Make a note of the conversation to remind you exactly why the person is useful
- Follow up within 48-72 hours so that they remember your face and what you talked about
I found the experience interesting and engaging. I particularly liked the use of ‘dogs’ and ‘cats’ to explain variations in personality types and how you can use this variety to help build your networking skills.
If you are a shy person, it makes sense to practise your social skills with people who are outgoing. Once you have learned these skills for yourself, you will pass them onto less confident people simply by communicating with them. John emphasised that the aim of networking is not to make as many contacts as possible, but instead to find that one contact who you connect with and is useful to you.
If you have any questions about networking, please feel free to comment below.
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