5 Tips For Successfully Networking (Virtually and in Person) When You're Anxious

Everyone says to get anywhere in life, you have to network. Meet everyone you can, build relationships every day, and somehow make stimulating conversations at the drop of a hat. Well, good for those people that can do that without even thinking about it. But what about the rest of us? The anxious, apprehensive, and sweaty-palmed? Luckily, we're in the 21st century and technology is on the introvert and anxious' side.

Stephen King has a quote: "The scariest moment is always just before you start." Oh, how true that is. The good thing is, however, is that moment only lasts for a second. Afterwards, you can have so many more fulfilling connections to help further your career. Between social media, tips from professionals, and everything in between, the anxious can be just as, if not more, successful in their networking opportunities. Here are five tips to successfully network (both in person and virtually), despite the crippling anxiety.

Start With a Simple Question
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Start With a Simple Question

A simple question can go a long way. Let's face it, people love talking about themselves, whether it be what they do or what they love. Some easy ones to start off with are: What do you do for a living? What's your favorite part about working in the industry? Discuss non-controversial current events. At the very least, show that you're a good listener. Who could dislike someone who listens so intently?

Learn Body Language Basics
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Learn Body Language Basics

Studies show that body language accounts for over 50 percent of overall communication. While most of us focus solely on what the other person is saying, we're ignoring most of what they're actually trying to communicate to us. Certain things to watch from the other person are: where their feet are pointed (wherever they're pointed at is who or what they're focusing on), crossed arms, which can be a sign of being closed off, or hands on their hips, which signals a more open stance. If their hands are behind their back, that could be a sign they're also anxious!

Be aware of your own body language signals as well. Use mirroring techniques such as imitating the other person's movements to show a sign of trust, and keep eye contact (or fake it). A trick my father always reminded me to use is to stare at the bottom of their forehead since you can't look into both eyes at once — it has the same effect. If you forget everything else in the moment, just simply complement them and smile!

Learn to Exit When The Conversation is Dead
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Learn to Exit When The Conversation is Dead

Just like mastering how to start a conversation, learning to exit one is just as powerful. Have you ever been in a conversation that felt like a prison sentence? Absolutely no way out and went on for eternity? Avoid being that person. A little trick to find a way out of a conversation is to find if the intended purpose has been met. If the original purpose is met — whether it be introducing yourselves or discussing a new position — then leave. Conversing with new people is absolutely terrifying, but making it a science can make it less intimidating. A general rule of thumb: after the second awkward silence, find a way to walk away or sign off. Don't leave the first impression on a bad note! You can do this by thanking them for their time, planning a follow-up, or shifting focus by saying there's someone else you'd like to talk to as well.

Utilize Social Media Groups
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Utilize Social Media Groups

One of the best things about social media is the ability to meet anyone without having to physically meet in person, and there are thousands of networking groups on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Some are for hobbies, while others are purely for networking with like-minded people in the same field. To put it simply: social media makes meeting new people a lot less scary. These groups can help you find your next position (a lot of people post freelance positions or positions that their company is hiring for), meet more people in your field, and find new ways to gain more skills. A lot of people post about skill swapping or free masterclasses, make sure to check in on those.

Take Advantage of Cold Emails
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Take Advantage of Cold Emails

Cold Emails are not a dead networking tool. A good cold email can open so many doors for you if you do it just right. The main goal is to create a connection and then build on that relationship further. If you're having trouble getting started, keep a few things in mind when making up your draft:

  • Personalize it: people can smell a mass email from a mile away! Show your personality throughout the email and woo them with your charm.
  • Focus on the other person: the point of a cold email is to build a connection with the other person. Make it about them by asking questions, complimenting them, and so on.
  • Make a great subject line: let's face it, a good subject line is one of the most enticing tools for effective emailing. According to a study, 55 percent of people like when email subject lines include relevant products and offers, so clearly, personalization is an effective tactic. Just make sure it doesn't give off any weird signals. Some good examples are: "So nice to meet you!," "(Mutual connection) recommended I get in touch with you," "I found you through . . .," "We have [TK] in common," or "I have an idea for . . ."
  • Highlight how mutually beneficial the new relationship can be: make sure it's not all benefits for one and nothing for the other. Let them know they're helping you and you're helping them.
  • Follow up: sometimes emails get lost in spam or in a flood of other emails. It happens! Just make sure to follow up within a few days of the initial email.