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How I Beat my Networking Nerves

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on June 8, 2014



For many people it's a necessary evil. There's no way around it if you're serious about building your career or business. Networking has been invaluable to me, but until recently, I never quite got over my awkwardness.

My friend Roger, on the other hand, can work any crowd, any where, any topic. A while ago we attended an open house at a law firm. Roger immediately disappeared into the crowd.

I headed towards the h'oerderves table. Alone.

I finally met up with him 30 minutes later and to my horror, with me in tow, Roger made a beeline to Will, one of the partners I was trying to avoid.

Within minutes we were laughing and chatting.

Without Roger I NEVER would have approached Will. Roger built bridges between us by introducing common topics, and I walked away with a solid contact.

Roger taught me to go with the flow. Specifically, go with MY flow. I learned how to leverage my comfort zone - existing relationships and common topics - in order to expand my network. I used to dread networking in a crowd of strangers at a conference.

Not any more.

I built my confidence step by step, and now networking is an enjoyable daily activity.

Ready to expand your network?

  1. Start with a positive attitude. If you tell yourself, "I'm terrible at networking", guess what. You are. Instead, shift your self talk to the positive based on something you enjoy.

    • If you like to learn, tell yourself "I enjoy learning new things from people."

    • When you put yourself at ease and you'll be surprised how it will put others at ease too.

  2. Go with who you know. Network progressively. Start with who you know and move to people you don't. Don't start networking at a conference of 500 strangers. Practice approaching people you know to lessen your fear of rejection. Then expand.

    • Start with someone you haven't seen in a while. Email or call them and get an update.

    • Ask someone you know well to introduce you to someone you admire and then meet them for coffee.

      • "Beth, I'm looking for a contact who can help me analyze new social media campaigns. I think Jeff Smith is an expert on this. Would you introduce me to him? I'd like to meet him."
    • Email someone you admire, but don't know well, and ask for advice. Give them a reference point on how you know them, then broach your topic.

      • "John, I met you a few years ago at a conference hosted by Rich Carter. I presented new learnings on social media. I noticed you just posted your company's strategy on YouTube advertising - I learned a lot. Could I get 10-15 minutes to discuss it?"
    • Now you're ready to introduce yourself to someone you don't know.


  3. Go with your knowledge flow. Expand your network along shared interests between you and your network. This way you reduce the awkwardness of not knowing what to say. Eventually you will be able to small talk with anyone on any topic.

  4. Practice. Daily. I didn't get significantly better at networking until I emailed or called 1-5 contacts a day. I wasn't meeting all of them in person, but I was improving my connecting skills.

    • The more you connect - the easier connecting becomes. As I got more comfortable connecting via email and phone calls, my confidence increased and spilled into my face to face networking.

    • You can be brief but be authentic. I customized each email or call. If it was someone that I hadn't been in contact with for a while I explained that I had a New Year's resolution to be more connected and I wanted to catch up.


Nervous about networking? Not anymore. Go with YOUR flow and next time we meet at the h'oerderves table, we'll have something to chat about.

Looking for more tips on breaking through? Check out NOT Getting Noticed? The Inside Track on Making Your Mark

Want some practical tips on confidence? Check out these two posts on the Career Toolbox page.

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