Networking Events – You wouldn’t know this if you saw me at one, but I really don’t like them. I’m afraid of standing alone in a crowd. I am uncomfortable approaching a stranger. I feel as if I’m always being judged and that I will be rejected or discredited somehow.
I don’t know why I feel like this. I spent my youth on stage performing as a classical vocalist receiving praise for my talent and poise. I’m approachable and friendly. I can discuss a wide variety of topics and understand how to debate while avoiding conflict. I attend networking and social events, but infrequently and not without an underlying anxiety tied to them.
I quickly googled “fear of networking” and found pages upon pages of advice and information. If some statistics I found are correct, then something like 7 million adults in the US have a “fear” of meeting new people or talking to strangers. And something like 10 million adolescents (between the ages of 10 and 25) have this fear. Don’t quote my numbers. I’m not a scientist. Let’s just say it appears that there are a lot of us out there.
What I DO know is networking, talking to strangers, has been vital to my career. When I step out of my comfort zone and attend networking events, my phone rings more, I’m invited to additional events, and people reconnect with me more often. Through networking, I’ve been invited to join committees, asked for my personal/professional opinions, and received job offers.
But don’t take my word. Google it. Check out the research by network scientist Dr. Ronald Burt. Or the research by the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Basically, what I’ve read is, ‘85% of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering”, your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead…. People do business with people they like and trust.’ – Forbes.com [http://bit.ly/29ybqEK].
Everything takes a little practice. Emotional, Moral and Body Intelligence require personal investment. My hope for anyone else who has this secret fear, for people with any level of social anxiety, is that they will take the step to become engaged. Find those situations and step into them. You’ll feel uncomfortable. Your nerves may be on end. Maybe no one will talk to you. Maybe someone will talk to you. Do it anyway. You’ll get better at it, or at least you’ll appear to be better at it. And who cares if you still have this hidden fear anyway? Someone else’s perception can be your reality.
And, congratulations on your upcoming engagement!
– Image found at https://nonajones.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/networking-101/