Dear Classy Career Girl,
Im originally from Ohio, recently moved to NYC and I need to make personal and professional connections.
From one “shy girl” to another, what is it that allowed you to open up to strangers?
I feel so intimidated, especially with professionals in companies or roles I admire – and I clam up, kicking myself later for being so awkward. I know with practice comes ease, but how do you start and get the courage to continue?
How to Network When You are Shy
Thank you for having the courage to write this email! I think it is great that you know where your weaknesses are and you are not giving up! You are looking for ways to improve and become better! I love it!
My Networking Story
It’s interesting to think back on how I started. The important thing isn’t how I started, it is that I started. It is hard to step out of your comfort zone but the reason that I started networking is that I knew that I needed to network and meet new people if I ever wanted the success that I wanted for my life. I knew the easy way out would just be to go along and do what is natural and easy but that it wouldn’t bring me to where I wanted to go.
My first experience with actual networking was forced in college. I took an administrative communication class where my grade counted on it. I didn’t like doing badly in school so I did the 3 informational interviews that were required.I had this long list of alumni and business contacts in the area but I only had phone numbers. I had to call each one of them and ask them for an informational interview. It was horrifying! At least now you can usually start out with a simple email. So much easier!
So that is how I got started. I realized that after I got over the fear of asking for the interview, actually doing the informational interviews really wasn’t that difficult at all because I could prepare my questions ahead of time. It brought my confidence up and I learned more about certain career fields.
After college, I joined a professional women’s group with some of my friends and we would go together. It helped to be with someone that I knew when walking into a room of strangers. In business school, I started attending networking events by myself.
This was tough but it forced me to talk to people that I didn’t know. I always try to get to know one person in the room when I walk in. This makes it much easier to meet others and sometimes they will even introduce me to other people!
How to Network: My Tips for Shy Women
Remember that most people in the room you walk into are in the same boat, scared to death. Instead of being afraid to start a conversation, think about how you are going to help other people feel more comfortable. One of the biggest mistakes is walking into a networking or social event and thinking all about yourself and what you are going to do and say.
It will take loads of pressure off if you think about the other people you are going to meet and what you want to get to know about them. Don’t worry so much about yourself! Also, if you have questions that you are going to ask ready to go and if you aren’t worried about your elevator pitch when meeting someone, it will take the pressure off as well. Just a little bit of work before the event will make everything much less intimidating and nerve wracking.
Also, when I would get nervous talking to people in higher levels, I would think about how they are just regular people. No one is so big that they deserve special treatment or to be bowed down to. It doesn’t hurt to flatter someone if they have done something great and you have always looked up to them, tell them. But, don’t worship them. They were once in your shoes and most likely, would be honored to help you by sharing their information and knowledge.
The Moral of the (Networking) Story
Just start somewhere. It will get so much easier as you practice and continue to do it. You really can’t mess up because you are working on your professional growth. The more people you meet, the more confident you will get.
No one that I talk to today would think that I am the “shy girl” and you will get there someday too! Just keep going! If you clam up and are awkward, just use it as a lesson to improve next time. For more tips, make sure you check out my tips on the secret of small talk and the secret to introductions.
Readers, what is your advice for Intimidated on how to network as a shy person??