I. Hate. Networking.

We all do.  In our natural state, we don’t seem to be good at it at all.  We hate the idea of talking to successful strangers.  They are surely much smarter than us, is the thought.  We are just bound to say something stupid, we know.   Yet, like dragging ourselves to a job on Friday morning – We. Have. To. Do. It.  And it is necessary to further our careers.

I’ve had to network from scratch in two vastly different careers – all while in my twenties. First when I was working as an attorney at a large law firm in New York and now as startup CEO.  Both settings require networking savvy that I am still naturally resistant to.  I know the feeling where you walk into a room full of people and you feel like everyone else fits in but you.  People are just chatting away in small circles and you are the odd ball out – nervous to even walk up to anyone much less try to say something meaningful.

But I do it.  I network because I know it is vital to my success.

Thanks to my unique experience I feel I know a few more nuanced tricks to the art of networking.  Here are some tricks that I use that I suggest you should try now:

Set Up Google Alerts

I suggest setting up Google Alerts for industry terms or names of leaders in your practice to stay on top of what’s being written about them.

Google alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds results that match your search term. You can use Google Alerts to monitor just about anything like: “young entrepreneur” “interviews” or “business resources” and such.  Set one up here: http://www.google.com/alerts

In this way you can feel like a genius by being up on the latest for your industry, resources or on head honchos attending the event.

Use Twitter as a Networking Tool

Use twitter as a professional networking tool to try to meet people online prior to events.

Start by following:

  • People you want to emulate
  • Resourceful organizations – especially your regional group, and
  • Industry news outlets.

Read what these followers are posting about. Comment on their posts and try to answer their questions.  Blindly introduce yourself, even.  Perhaps there are common hashtags that a particular group uses as well – which makes it easier for other people within that group to find you.

Then, take note of upcoming events in the area.  Once you know of a networking event that is coming up send out tweets to find out who is going. Conversely, be on the lookout for tweets from others that will be at your event of interest. Before you know it you will have eased the pressure of networking before ever setting foot into an event by getting connected beforehand!

Dress for Success

What you wear matters.  Not because you need to impress others but because it effects how you project yourself.  Research shows that when you look good you feel good.  When you feel good your confidence can shine.

When deciding what to wear to a networking event:

  • Know Your Industry – I feel like geek is in for the start-up culture and suits were in for my firm days and so on.  It’s all a matter of your field.
  • Know the Audience – Are you at an after work bar or a sit down dinner?  That matters.  You don’t want to be the odd one out for your clothes – unless a noticeable fashion sense is what will get you the job.

Above it all dress your best to fit your personal style.

Act Like The Most Confident Person In the Room

Acting overly confident pays off.

We must fight our natural tendency to just “get through” an event.  You need to appear as the most confident person in the room.  To all my fellow introverts out there – fake it until you make it – because it works.  Research tells us that those who are overly confident and masters at self-promotion tend to trump those who simply get by.  It’s time for you to get noticed. Here are my quick tips on how to act confident.

Ask Questions – I like open ended questions but any questions should do the trick.  Don’t be shy to learn more about who you are talking to. One of my favorites to ask more established folk:  If you could go back in time – what would you tell yourself before you got started?

Keep eye contact – Don’t look around or on the ground.  Keep your eyes on the person you are interacting with.  Anything else makes you look uncertain or uninterested.

Speak Clearly – Try to cut down on those “ahhs” and “umms” by practicing the types of these you would say.  Also, speak loudly and try to slow it down. This gets better with practice.

Correct Posture – I don’t want to tell you how to pose but certain posturing brings forth an effect of confidence like back straight, shoulders back, neck up type stuff.

In the end, we may never feel comfortable networking but these tips can make us feel better about doing it.

What are some networking techniques that you have learned?   Tell me in the comments below.

Keisha L. DePaz is founder & CEO of PunchStreet.com – a greeting company inspired by young adult life.  Previously, a practicing attorney in Manhattan, New York.  Keisha enjoys discussing and writing about various topics of interest to the twenty and thirtysomethings of the world.  Email: keisha.depaz@punchstreet.com