How to Network: 12 Tips for Shy People

Schmoozing is a trial for shy people, but armed with these common-sense tips they can increase their networking mojo.

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Tue, December 11, 2007

CIO — Networking is the key to success in business, says Keith Ferrazzi, business coach and author of Never Eat Alone, a book about the power of relationship building and networking. It helps you find jobs, recruit talent, win new customers and discover investors who'll support your ideas.

But networking is a trial for shy people—geeks especially. They view it as insincere at best, manipulative at worst. They eschew networking for a variety of reasons including lack of confidence, fear of rejection and a sense of unworthiness.

If they could just relate to others more easily, if they just possessed more self-confidence and weren't such self-conscious wallflowers, the world would be their oyster, and schmoozing would be so much easier.

It is possible for shrinking violets and shy guys to master the skill of networking. They just have to realize, says Ferrazzi, that successful networking is all about building intimate, sincere relationships based on mutual generosity, not duplicity, and that they can't achieve their career goals on their own. They have to network their way to success.

If you're struggling to meet new people, here's some common-sense advice for increasing your networking mojo.

Start Small

If the idea of approaching people you don't know intimidates you, begin your networking efforts by seeking out familiar faces, such as relatives and friends.

"You can do a significant amount of valuable networking without ever having to make a cold call," says Lynne Sarikas, the director of Northeastern University's MBA Career Center. "Starting with a known [contact] instead of an unknown demystifies the [networking] process and helps get a shy person over the hurdle." A series of successful conversations will make you more confident in the process, Sarikas adds.

A logical next step after talking with friends and family is to pursue individuals who graduated from your college. Your alumni network can be a gold mine of connections, says Sarikas. It exists for the purpose of networking, so contacting an alum out of the blue shouldn't feel like a cold call. After all, they joined the network to make and take such calls.

Stop Apologizing

Introverts and inexperienced networkers often apologize when asking for an individual's help because they see networking as an imposition, not as an exercise in relationship building, says Sarikas.

"They feel like they're asking someone to do them a favor. They don't think they're worth someone else's time so they're apologizing for it," she says.

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