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Successfully Networking Your Way Up

Wanna step up your networking game? Get over these five stumbling blocks to supercharge your career and your business.

Many people are simply not comfortable walking into a room full of strangers and striking up conversations. Nonetheless, networking events present opportunities to grow a business or promote a career.

Here are five common stumbling blocks that you may face and tips to help you overcome them.

Afraid of Talk to Strangers

You were taught at an early age not to speak to people you don't know. It's not safe. In certain situations today this is still good advice. In business, however, talking to strangers is a way to generate interest and support for your products and services.

If you only talk to the people you already know, you will miss out on opportunities to make new connections and establish valuable contacts.

To get past your discomfort in talking to strangers, set a goal for yourself before you attend any networking event. Come up with some icebreakers or conversation starters. Have questions prepared that you can ask anyone you meet at the event. Decide how many new contacts you want to make or how many strangers you want to meet. In some cases, you may specifically target individuals whom you'd like to know.

No Formal Introductions

It's much easier to make a new contact when there is someone else to handle the introduction and pave the way. If you wait for another person to make the move you may not meet anyone. At networking events, the goal is to meet as many people as possible.

This is the time to take the bull by the horns, walk up to people you don't know, introduce yourself and start a conversation. You can do this if you have prepared your self-introduction in advance.

You will not introduce yourself the same way on every occasion. Perhaps it is your first time attending an association meeting. In that case, you might want to say that as part of your introduction. Let people know who you are, why you are there and give them a reason to ask more about you.

Trying Not To Be Seen As Pushy

You may think that you will turn people off if you are assertive. Assuming that if they want to talk to you, they will make the first move. If this is your line of thinking you will find yourself spending your time alone without a single new connection. Being open, friendly, and interested does not turn people off.

You will not come across as overly aggressive if you seek out the "approachable" people. These are the ones who are standing alone or who are speaking in groups of three or more. Avoid approaching two people talking to each other. They may be having a private conversation and you would be interrupting.

Caring About What People Think

There is always the risk that the other person is not interested in you and doesn't want to meet or talk to you. It happens. If that is the case, don't take it personally. Nothing ventured is nothing gained. When you get a cold shoulder, smile, move on, and say to yourself, "Next?"

Being Misunderstood

Approaching someone of the opposite sex to begin a conversation may seem more like flirting than networking. This is more of an issue for women than men. Women have an equal place in the work arena and need to make professional connections the same as men do. Women in business can no longer afford to hold back when there is an opportunity at hand. There is no misunderstanding if the conversation focuses on business or topics that are not personal.

Final Thoughts

Whatever your stumbling blocks, face them before the next networking event and devise a personal plan for getting past them. Once you do, you will find yourself connecting with confidence and the results will be reflected in your bottom line.

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