09/30/2019 by Kori Burkholder
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 seems.
She shared with me, "I'm happy to do this, but I will be candid. 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 later when I 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 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 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 about and excited about right now is the idea of…
I’m looking for opportunities to utilize my x,y, and z skills and meet people in these industries.
Now that you have worked these out and 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:
Get Career Clarity
Even if early in career exploration, there are things you DO know. For example, do you know that you want to use a specific 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 for-profit? Do you know that you want to work for a small or big company? Do you know that you want to work in New York City, or do you want to move to Dallas? Do you know that you want to work for a startup, or do you want to work for an established company? Write these down and use them to sprinkle into the conversations.
Identify the goal for your 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 afterward. 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 will take the pressure off and keep you focused.
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 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. I can get caught up in a conversation with one person because of my curious nature. 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 entirely up to you. Don’t forget to exchange information so you can follow up later via email and Linkedin!
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 now that we are doing in-person meetings again. This will help you get out from behind your computer and 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, Google Hangout, or Facebook? It creates a much deeper connection, creating more of a bond, leading to an opportunity somewhere down the line.
Find a Wing(wo)man
And if you don’t want to go alone, find a Wing(wo)man. I always tell clients who "hate to network" to see 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.
Taking Imperfect Action
After the event, my client emailed me saying, "This morning was enjoyable despite my initial anxiety. It was helpful having you there as a familiar face".
What if she decided not to go because she didn’t have the perfect elevator pitch? She ended up having friendly conversations. She boldly went up to a few panelists and introduced herself without an ideal elevator pitch. Now, she has four more new contacts than she did before! I always tell my clients when feeling stuck or the inner perfectionist is driving them to take imperfect action because it will take them one step further.
Going into a network when you’re in the thick of career exploration and not having all the answers yet is ok! So 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 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 uses creativity as a pathway to turn career, business, and life dream into reality. Kori’s coaching and creative workshop facilitation provide tools, ideas, and resources to support individuals and organizations to become their happiest and best selves.
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