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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.

#antisocial #networking


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Erica’s Answer

I'm an introvert as well. However, what has worked for me at networking events is to be the one that asks questions. I start with making eye contact and a simple smile. Some people will simply come up and introduce themselves. Some people just love to talk and all you need to do is engage nonverbally.

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Judy’s Answer

Hi Laiba,

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:

Find an accountability community to help determine your opportunities and work on them. Don't forget to record. The camera never lies. :)
Create a reminder of what your focus is for your next networking event. Small steps count.
Consider creating a networking event for those who might need practice or are facing the same challenge as you are. You'll be surprised that you're not alone!

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Shagoon’s Answer

Hey Laiba,

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

Shagoon recommends the following next steps:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2014/07/22/17-tips-to-survive-your-next-networking-event/#2e6e433f7cd4
https://www.cio.com/article/3219704/how-to-network-17-tips-for-shy-people.html
https://smartg.com/actor/networking-success/

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Syed’s Answer

Hi Laiba,

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.

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Erik’s Answer

Always be yourself. I've been to many networking events and you can tell when someone is not genuine and is "trying too hard" to impress you. Those are the individuals who you don't want to model after and others tend to avoid. People value honesty and showing your true colors is what people look forward to in getting to learn more about.

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Dee’s Answer

It can be tough to act natural at times but the more you think about acting natural the more you won't act natural. It needs to be organic, to make it a successful networking session prepare some question ahead of time so if there's a lull you can reference those questions to keep the conversation going. Think about what you want the person to know about you and how you can bring that up in the conversation. You want to share your strengths so they know more about you and what you bring to the table. If you decide to share opportunities make sure you address with how you have resolved them or are working to resolve them. Be professional, prompt, polite and make eye contact.

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William’s Answer

Laiba, thanks for your question. I also struggle with networking, so I've tried to start using verbal cues to help myself. For example, my voice tends to be pretty monotone, so in the past, people have thought I was bored or uninterested when talking to them, but that's just how I sound. So, now, I'll say something like "I'm really excited to hear more about your work" when I'm networking with them. That both reminds me to try to seem extra-interested in the other person, and let's them know that I am interested in what they have to say. You might try incorporating similar verbal cues when you network.

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!

Oooh, Never thought of that, I'll give it a try in the next networking session I attend Laiba T.

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Michael’s Answer

I would say first be yourself. You really cannot change the way you are for the better. From here I would suggest try finding some common ground within the networking group. Maybe if you know who will be there try to find out a little about one who you would like to network with and then two what are your common interests. By having this info you can feel more secure about being there, which hopefully in turn will allow you to open up more and share more of your ideas. Hope that this helps!

Thanks Michael, I will try Laiba T.

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Cynthia’s Answer

I'll just add a few bits to the other very good advice you've had. This may sound a bit nutty, but think about theater- especially improv (improvisation). These folks have skills to think on their feet and 'act' a part that may not feel 'natural' to them. At our university our career center partnered with the drama folks to teach a few workshops on Improvisation for Job Search. It got folks to be in a group of equally reserved people and practice in real time ways to get over anxiety, fear, shyness, etc. - or at least to try it out... Maybe there is an improvisation course near you ....just more public speaking often helps with this. AND another option is to practice and see yourself....use your computer and it's camera to video record yourself answering questions about yourself (tell me about yourself, why are you interested in this field, what is your experience in X, do you have any questions for me?) record and watch...and repeat....try new phrases, write out a script for yourself and practice it. all of this practice helps you get a bit 'looser' and might help you see small places where you can improve to meet your own standards. You don't want to pretend to be someone you are not....and lastly. name it in the meeting. you can say stuff like...hi, i'd love to talk to you about your work with X, but I have to warn you, sometimes I see a bit reserved, I am very interested in X, I'm just not a big talker....or whatever.....you have identified and named and given understanding to your demeanor so taht the other person won't misunderstand your quiet for boredom. Owning a 'weakness' is a sign of strength. good luck

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Becky’s Answer

Work on your 30 second commercial. Have it down pat. Make sure you can introduce yourself to someone and give them a little information about what you're about and what you do or want to do. If you set a goof tone in your first impression, they are less likely to see you as awkward or shy. It will give you more confidence and your ability to really shine through.

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!

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Nancy’s Answer

Networking is not easy for most people - it usually involves talking with people you don't know. It is good that you are aware that you may appear to not be social but you should know that many successful people are not extroverts naturally. An excellent book to read is "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. Before you go try thinking of 1 or 2 questions that you'd like to ask - practice asking the questions. Also even if you do not say anything - show you are listening and agreeing and try to smile - I think you realize it is important to appear approachable - even if you say nothing - people will believe you are interested by your body language. Good luck

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Xavier’s Answer

I am the exact same way until I become comfortable. They say the best way to become comfortable is to practice. Try with friends before you actually have to communicate with other people. Prepare before any meeting. Write down ideas that you might have and elaborate the best way you can. In terms of "acting" natural, I say be yourself. Your personality type has a place in this world just like everyone else's. Just be confident in who you are, and people will start to gravitate to you.

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