6 Tips For Stress-Free Networking While in Career Transition
When you hear the term “networking event” what comes to mind?
Dread, nervousness, anxiety, discomfort and awkwardly forced conversations?
I invited one of my clients to a networking event who’s in the early stages of career exploration. I knew she was nervous about going because up until this point in her professional life, every career move revealed itself naturally and without much efforting on her part.
This isn’t the case now or at least that’s what it seems.
She shared with me, “I ‘m happy to do this, but I am going to be totally honest ,I feel like unless I have some kind of elevator pitch and can also summarize that intro sentence on Linkedin about “what I’m about” I feel at a loss. I am not a networker by nature, it’s incredibly hard for me, and lately when I do have opportunities to meet new people it’s like one vague run on sentence of what I used to do/be and the vague things I’m interested in”.
While in career transition, there’s nothing wrong with being honest about where you are in life and saying you are in career exploration and in the process of figuring things out.
To help address the question that will most likely pop up like, “what do you do?” or thoughts like, “What do I say when I don’t have the clarity about what’s next?”
Let’s create a framework and use prompt questions to help formulate what to say:
- I’m actually in the midst of exploring my next career move. My background is x, y, z
- I am looking for my next gig at the intersection of x, y, and z.
- What I’m passionate and excited about right now is the idea of….
- I’m looking for opportunities to utilize my skills, x,y, z and to meet people in these types of industries.
Now that you have worked these out and have more information to work with, here are a few tips that will help you move from dread to having more freedom and confidence at networking events:
1. Get clear on what YOU DO KNOW you want.
Even if early in career exploration, there are things you definitely DO know. For example, do you know that you want to use a certain skill set? Do you see yourself leading teams or working solo? Do you know that you’d like to work for a non-profit or a for profit? Do you know that you want to work for a small company or a big company? Do you know that you want to work in New York City or do you know you want to move to Dallas? Do you know that you want to work for a startup or do you know that you want to work for an established company? Write these down and use them to sprinkle into the conversations.
2. What’s your goal for this networking event?
Maybe your goal is as simple as going on a career exploration expedition where it’s a place to go and meet new people, learn about what others do and gather ideas and inspiration. Or if there’s a speaker there that interests you the goal might be to go and meet them afterwards. Maybe it’s to practice talking about yourself, or to learn about a new industry that has always interested you. Going in with a goal is going to take the pressure off a bit and keep you focused.
3. Challenge yourself to have x# of conversations.
If going up to a stranger and striking up a conversation makes you nervous ASK QUESTIONS, ask lots of questions! Come from a place of curiosity and really dig in and find out how they got to do what they’re doing now. What was their career path? Did they always know what they wanted to do? Find out what their day to day is like or ask what’s the most challenging part of their job is or what they like least about their job? What’s the company culture like where you work.
Go for quality over quantity and trust the process and your intuition. Personally speaking, because of my curious nature, I can get really caught up in a conversation with one person. Then I will hear the voice inside my head saying,”you need to talk to more people”. But, no, I tune back to my intuition and tell myself I’m talking to exactly the person I need to be talking to right now. The x# is completely up to you. Don’t forget to exchange information so you can follow up later via email and Linkedin!
4. Aim to ask one person out for coffee.
Once you’ve had your set number of conversations, choose one and ask them to meet up for coffee or lunch. This will help you get out from behind your computer and out to meet people face to face. How easy is it for us to get locked in the virtual world? How does it make you feel to connect with someone in person rather than on Zoom or Google Hangout or Facebook? It creates a much deeper connection, in turn creates more of a bond, which may lead to an opportunity somewhere down the line.
5. Find a Wing(wo)man.
And if you really don’t want to go alone, find a Wing(wo)man. I always tell clients who “hate to network” to find a Wing(wo)man, (aka a friend), choose something fun that you both want to do, discuss your professional objectives and 2-3 talking points you’d like each other to highlight about each other before walking in. I love this idea because you don’t have to talk about yourself and it takes the pressure off! You get to brag about your friend and their accomplishments and goals and your friend gets to brag about you.
6. Taking Imperfect Action
After the event, my client emailed me saying, “This morning was really fun despite my initial anxiety. It was really helpful having you there as a familiar face”.
What if she decided not to go becuase she didn’t have the perfect elevator pitch? She ended up having nice convesations, she boldly went up to a few of panelists and introduced herself without a perfect elevator pitch. Now, she has 4 more new contacts then she did before! I always tell my clients when feeling stuck or the inner perfectionist is driving to take imperfect action because it will get you one step further.
Going into a networking event when you’re in the thick of career exploration and not having all the answers quite yet, is ok! Be with the feeling of uncomfortableness as this is just one phase in your career evolution.
When you do finally land in your next dream role, you’ll look back on this time as a time of growth and will have your own wisdom to share when you meet others going through it.
Kori Burkholder, Certified Professional Career & Life Coach
Kori Burkholder is a Career Success Coach helping early to mid career professionals who’ve awoken to the reality that they want more purpose driven, fulfilling, flexible careers, but are unclear on how to bring it into a reality. She takes clients through her groundbreaking, transformational Career Clarity system that helps transform confusion into a clear vision with a solid plan to bridge the gap. Kori’s work is centered around using creativity as a pathway to turn career, business and life dreams into reality. Kori’s coaching and creative workshop facilitation provides tools, ideas, and resources to support individuals and organizations to become their happiest and best selves.
Sync up with Kori on Social
If you need help with finding career clarity, book a free Exploratory call with Kori and let’s figure this out together.