In a networking session, how do I act natural?
I'm really a cold and mysterious individual which means I tend to keep everything short and precise. This often results in people avoiding me which results in me not being able to express my ideas and views fully or even approach anyone.
Your question is something many may not think about when they create networking events. How to include and create as space for introverts or those who may experience social anxiety?
I'd love to give you power in this situation:
1. You can create networking events that are tailored for those who do better in 1:1 settings. Granted a lot of things are virtual right now, consider reaching out to somebody who can help create a virtual platform or connect you with those to have a 1:1 conversation versus in a large group setting.
2. Find a trustworthy group of people who can help coach/mentor your nonverbal cues in a "tough love" manner. I always tell clients, the camera never lies. Record yourself to keep track of your progress honestly. Determine what soft skills you need to stretch/grow: Listening, nonverbal cues and body language, tone, responding to comments/questions, conversation etc..
Once you're ready to go back out to networking:
3. Try writing out your thoughts beforehand and review. Networking can feel like a really great social gathering for some and a nerve racking interview environment for others. If you determine your approach to networking (ie. I'm here to grow my network on LinkedIn or I'm here to find somebody who can help mentor me or work on my resume or I'm here just to practice socializing in a larger setting) write out a few goals or steps. Create a reminder of what your focus is and be okay with if you only hit one step or two out of four. Every attempt is growth and not in vain.
Judy recommends the following next steps:
Honestly, the best way would be to "act natural" without thinking about that. I will give you an example, say posture, you will not even notice that until you consciously trigger that my posture is not right. It might already be perfect but when you will put extra efforts to stand in a certain way, that will come unnatural. Improvement is not bad but being an imposture is!
You know better what are the things you need to improve, you have to practice and with practice it will become natural but if you try to be someone else, maybe you will succeed once, but you will always be under the anxiety of being caught. It is better to be your own self and be your better version with each day!
Hope it helps!
Shagoon recommends the following next steps:
There's some things you can do to increase your confidence in networking sessions:
1. Do your research on the company and opportunities before coming to the session so you're prepared
2. Have a list of questions you want answered (that cannot be answered on the company website or easily Googled)
3. If they release the names of the company representatives who are attending beforehand, look up those people's LinkedIn profiles so you can figure out if there are people who you would connect with more naturally
4. Do power poses, exercise, or whatever other activity gets you in the zone and amped up before these sessions
5. Fake it til you make it! You need to learn to exude confidence and a warm personality even if it's not natural. You can watch YouTube videos on this specifically or you can learn from watching movies/TV shows about this type of personality
Remember, the goal is to get an interview and a job. You need to do whatever is within your ethical capacity to get an interview. Networking is crucial in this process. However, I will mention that you can network individually with people outside of sessions by leveraging Alumni Network databases at your university and reaching out to people individually on LinkedIn. This digital communication could be a lot easier for you.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you might also try to make a joke about yourself to break the ice and let them know that you aren't being cold. I do the same thing with my speaking: "What you just said about your job is so cool! Can't you tell how exciting it is by my voice? But seriously, I'd love to hear more."
Hope that helps!
Also, practice. Find a friend that will let you practice your commercial on them. You will be surprised at the feedback they give that you may not have considered. You got this!