Building a professional network: 5 ways to overcome shyness and introduce yourself
The power of a professional network is enormous. A Hubspot survey found that 85% of job openings are filled through professional networking.
While we're often great at creating personal networks of family and friends, building a professional network can feel much more intimidating, especially if you’re shy. If that's how you're feeling, this article is for you.
After we've explained professional networking in more detail, we'll discuss how to build your confidence and overcome shyness. Then, we'll finish by exploring five easy ways to get started building your professional network.
What is a professional network, and why is it important for your career?
Similar to building networks of friends and family in our personal lives, professional networks are made up of colleagues and associates within your industry. For example, suppose you work as a chef. Your professional network will be made up of other chefs and associated professionals such as restaurant managers, bartenders, and even external catering providers.
But, why are professional networks important?
Here are three key benefits of building a strong professional network:
You can learn from others. Especially if you're looking to advance in your career, a professional network can help you learn new skills and keep up-to-date with industry knowledge. No single person can know everything, so build a solid network to learn from other experts in your field.
It helps to identify new opportunities. There's no better way to hear about new and exciting roles in local businesses than by building a professional network. By creating a strong reputation with others, you may find yourself in a top position for jobs in other organizations when they arise.
Networks help each other. Like with personal networks, members of a trustful professional network often help each other out in times of need. This may be in the form of advice or helping each other out with day-to-day tasks or problems.
How to overcome shyness & prepare yourself to build professional connections
Now that you know what a professional network is and why they're so important, it's time to start thinking about building one.
We know that preparing to meet new people is daunting, especially if you're shy. But don't worry, we've got you covered!
Here are five steps you can take to overcome shyness and prepare yourself to start building a professional network.
Step 1. Understand you're not alone
First, it helps to recognize that everyone entering the world of professional networking feels the same way. Putting yourself out there in front of new people is always tough, but take comfort that everyone is in the same boat.
Everyone enters professional networking for similar reasons, whether to build their knowledge, advance their career, or find other professionals they can exchange favors with.
Also, remember that you can bring value to others too! You have a wealth of life and work experience, so have confidence in the fact that you'll be there to help others build their networks too.
Step 2. Set some professional networking goals
Like anything in the world of work, you should set goals ahead of time to get the best results. Having a target to aim for will also keep you concentrated and build internal confidence.
Your goals can be focused on the networking itself as well as the outcome. For example, you may plan to attend two networking events a month or set a goal to secure a new role from networking within three months.
Good preparation will help you feel more confident and keep your nerves down.
Step 3. Have an opening
With your goals set, you can now start to take action. For many people who start networking, this means coming up with an opening line to get the conversation flowing.
Here are a couple of examples.
If you want to keep it generic, try this:
"Hi, I'm XX. Nice to meet you. Tell me about what you do for work?"
If you're really nervous, let the other person know that you’re new to networking. This can help break down barriers.
"Hi, I'm XX. Nice to meet you. It's my first time networking; how are you finding the event?"
Events sometimes have guest speakers/presenters. Strike up a conversation afterward like this:
"Hi, I really enjoyed your presentation about XX. Where did you get the inspiration for that?"
Having openings lined up in your head helps reduce nerves and allows you to get a conversation started straight away.
Step 4. Ask for introductions
One of the best ways to overcome shyness is to utilize the personal networks you already have. Don't be afraid to ask friends and family for introductions to get the ball rolling.
Having someone you know in common is a great way to get the conversation started and help you feel comfortable building new relationships.
On the other hand, all networking events have an organizer who is also great at helping get you started. Speak with them about your networking goals and ask them to introduce you to one or two people.
Don't be afraid to ask, as when it comes to networking, there are often loads of people willing to help.
Step 5. Be authentic
Finally, remember to be authentic when meeting new people. Even though you'll have networking goals in mind, the key to success is to build quality relationships built on trust.
If you're feeling nervous about meeting new people, try to relax by remembering to just be yourself. If you do that and focus on creating meaningful relationships, you'll succeed in building a strong network of professional connections.
5 easy ways to start building your professional network
Now that you're ready to go, here are five easy ways to get started with the right professional networking event for you.
1. Start with social media communities
One of the easiest ways to start networking is to harness the power of social media. In particular, Facebook groups are great places to connect with like-minded people and start building new connections.
Online networking has a range of benefits, and if you're feeling shy, it's a great way to get started without the pressure of being face-to-face. Once entering a group, put up a post introducing yourself, your industry experience, and what you're looking to achieve.
2. Join industry webinars
If you're focusing on learning as part of your professional networking, we'd recommend joining webinars. This way, you'll benefit from learning expert knowledge while getting a soft introduction to industry leaders.
Certain webinars may also have breakout sessions or Q&As where you can get to know others. To overcome shyness, you can reach out to speakers/presenters via social media afterward.
3. Search locally for in-person events
Despite the pandemic, there are still plenty of in-person networking events taking place across the globe. While online events are great, 85% of people agree that you can build stronger connections when networking in person.
When looking for in-person networking events, also try searching for careers fairs, co-working space meetups, or high-school alumni events as great options to meet new people.
Remember, the best way to overcome shyness in person is to prepare an opening line and ask others you trust for an introduction. Once you're into the swing of it, you'll find in-person networking can be a really useful way to build connections
4. Join the Jobcase Community
Here at Jobcase, we have an amazing community of active jobseekers all looking to build their professional networks.
Here's how Jobcase can help you kickstart your professional network:
Create a Jobcase profile to showcase your skills, experience, and knowledge in your industry.
Get support from our team of community specialists.
Learn from hundreds of great resources to help you take the next step in your career.
Network in our community to meet other like-minded professionals.
Watch below to find out what the Jobcase Community is all about:
5. Host your own events
And, of course, you can always get started with networking on your terms and create your own events. Whether that's an in-person coffee morning or just a get-together online using Zoom, there are many ways to host your own event.
For those that are shy, try organizing these alongside local community organizations such as religious groups or charities to get you started.
You're ready to build a professional network
Professional networks are great ways to meet other like-minded people in your industry. Whether you're looking to learn new things or progress your career, there are many benefits to building a professional network.
Meeting new people can be a scary experience, especially if you’re shy. But there are things you can do to overcome shyness. We recommend setting clear goals, rehearsing your opening line, and asking for introductions to make getting started easier.
That way, whether you get into networking through social media or in-person, or you decide to start your own event, you'll be ready to overcome shyness and start introducing yourself to new connections straight away.
For more help building your network, connect with the Jobcase community today.