Networking is vital in today’s business world, but some of us (myself included, believe it or not!) are introverts at heart and working the room or stepping to the podium is just contrary to our nature. But despite the fact that I was born shy, I now spend a great deal of my time mingling at conferences, standing in the media spotlight, delivering keynote addresses, and coaching high-powered executives on how to network with bold, fearless confidence.

Here are some helpful tips for those who are “networking challenged.”

Own your introversion. Worrying about your shyness only magnifies it and makes you more uncomfortable. But introversion just means you know how to reflect deeply, analyze situations from the inside-out, and derive strength and energy from inside yourself. Many extroverts wish they had that ability, so reframe your identity as a unique value-adding trait.

Deconstruct discomfort. Anyone will feel a bit tense if they walk into a room full of strangers. In fact many famous actors and celebrities admit that they have stage fright that they have somehow learned to manage. The way to do it is to realize that when you are just talking to one or two people it is no big deal. So when you are networking, forget the big picture. Focus on one person and one conversation at a time. Then move to another one-on-one interaction. Soon you’ll be networking like a pro, without feeling the jitters of big crowd claustrophobia.

Get comfortable outside your familiar zone. To do this it is critical that you practice, practice, practice. That will transform discomfort into confident strength that comes naturally. As the ancient Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero said “You need to acquire the qualities you don’t have but make it seem as if you were born with them.” Over time you will start to feel completely at home, even in the midst of crowds, because you will develop a mastery of networking done on your own terms.

Be sure to also take advantage of social media to help reach out and connect without the stress. You can get to know people ahead of time, for example, so that when you do meet them in a networking situation you will already feel acquainted. That makes it fun and easy to chat, share, and make highly valuable professional and career contacts.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS is an internationally distinguished executive coach, corporate consultant, professional speaker, and the founding CEO of her own company, Illustra Consulting. A career acceleration and leadership presence expert, Hathorn created the innovative Predictable Promotion System, a 10-step proprietary process she uses to coach managers aspiring to be directors, directors seeking vice presidential promotions, and VP’s eager to ascend to the C-suite. Hathorn served as a senior level executive for a Fortune 100 company for 25 years, and she has more than 30 years of experience mentoring high potentials for rapid career advancement and extraordinary success.
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