How to overcome networking anxiety

Jun 7, 2018

Success within many industries often incorporates networking events; exciting opportunities to expand your professional contacts and liaise with potential clients. As we build a positive reputation, our career is inevitably given a little boost.

Although, networking is not an innate ability that comes naturally to all; pressure to impress and social anxiety can often make this supposedly enjoyable extra-curricular somewhat daunting and rather overwhelming. This struggle may come if you are particularly introverted, unconfident, shy or relatively new to a role, although whatever the cause, a fear of networking can be difficult to overcome once established.

However, with 70% of professionals valuing face to face networking over online and 41% of professionals wishing they had more time to network, it appears the benefits of honing this important skill are significant and failure to do so could be detrimental to career development. In an increasingly competitive market, having contacts is an essential advantage.

Similarly, new surveys reveal that 85% of jobs are filled via networking; this is evidently not just crucial for improved performance within your own position but might also help in acquiring your dream job. Successful networking can help to show your drive, enthusiasm and sociability; key skills in many advanced, client-facing positions.

To help you excel in networking, Ben Edwards, a self-confidence expert and relationship coach, provides some top tips for overcoming networking anxiety:

  1. Be selective

As your career develops, you’re likely to be invited to an increasing number of networking events. However, if this possibility makes you anxious, remember that not all networking events are equally important. Focus on prioritising those most suitable to your needs, helping you to meet the right people at the right time, discussing those issues fitting to your workplace priorities. By doing this, you may find that some of your anxiety is naturally alleviated, as a lot of the time stress stems from feeling overwhelmed by an unfamiliar setting or topic of conversation.

  1. Do your research

Entering the unknown often fills many of us with dread as we are left to anticipate what’s to come. Before a networking event, research the attendees; you will then have a better understanding of what you can expect and can spend your time wisely, speaking to the most appropriate people. Also, you can research their interests, careers and business; you will then be able to develop a more intimate connection and a memorable conversation which is essential at busy events.

  1. Arrive early

If you suffer from social anxiety, you may find that entering a room full of strangers is a little stressful. To help ease the pressure of meeting new people and approaching groups of chatty businessmen, arrive early. Walking into an event with conversations already flowing can easily knock your confidence; by arriving before anyone else, you can get comfortable with your surroundings and start conversations with fellow attendees without the pressure of impressing a crowd.

  1. Be realistic

Cut yourself some slack and remind yourself that networking is a two-way street; it’s not always up to you to fill the silence in a conversation or come up with interesting topics. Putting this pressure on yourself can stop you enjoying the event entirely and may make you feel intimidated. You don’t always have to be perfect, and not every event will be great. Accept that you’re only human and may make some mistakes – this will only help you grow.


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