8 Networking Tips for People Who Hate Networking

We know — the mere mention of networking can make many people cringe or shudder with dread. While networking may come easily to some people, if you’re reading this post, you are probably not one of them. 

However, who you know can matter a lot in terms of your career path. One recent survey, conducted in partnership with LinkedIn, found that upwards of 85% of jobs are filled through networking

So how can you reap the benefits of networking even if you hate networking?

Making networking work for you might mean finding a networking style that suits your personality, preferences, and strengths — or it could mean reframing how you think about networking. The point is: you have options. And like most things that overwhelm, it may help to break the practice of networking down into smaller, more easily actionable steps. 

Below we’ll discuss ways to make networking more manageable and, hey, maybe even enjoyable. Without further ado, here are eight networking tips for the reluctant networker.

1. Set an achievable goal

Try setting one achievable goal for the event to set yourself up for success. Rather than thinking you need to make dozens of connections, focus on connecting with one other person or company. Once you’ve completed that goal, you may even feel a bit empowered to go further and talk to someone else. You can specify your goal even further if a list of attendees is available. 

2. Bring a friend or colleague to networking events

If you’re new to in-person networking or just trying to get more comfortable with it, ease yourself in by bringing along someone you know. There’s always strength in numbers, and it helps to know at least one person at the event who you can rely on for friendly conversation. The more comfortable you are, the more your true self can come through to others that you meet. 

This one is trickier in the virtual event space, but it could still help to see a friendly, familiar face in one of the boxes on your screen. It also helps to use your networking buddy for accountability. Let them know your goal for the event, and ask them to hold you accountable for sticking to it.

3. Network from the comfort of your own home

Attending virtual events from the comfort of your own home may be a great opportunity to develop some stronger, more confident skills that you can carry into in-person gatherings. With more events taking place remotely than ever before, this is a way to ease into networking if it’s not your favorite. Utilize chat features to connect with other participants or look for opportunities to join Slack channels or social media groups for attendees. 

4. Know what you’re getting into

If you’re someone who doesn’t like the on-the-spot pressure of stepping into a new situation and striking up conversation with strangers, you’re certainly not alone. One way to make this aspect of networking easier is to familiarize yourself in advance with who else will be at the event. Look for an online RSVP list and check social posts for the events to see who has commented on them. Try finding one person or organization that you would like to learn more about and set your intention to connect with them. You can learn more about that company ahead of time and prepare a really thoughtful question to get the conversation started.

5. Ask questions

A lot of people at networking events are open to talking about themselves or their work! Keep a curious and open mind, and ask questions to learn more about them as a person or the industry that they represent. If you practice being present and asking questions, rather than worrying about what to say about yourself, the conversation will probably flow easier. 

6. Identify your work

If you work for a lesser-known organization, add a quick three-word description to your name tag. This will make you more easily approachable and draw more people to you who are interested in learning more about your line of work. For example, not everyone may know what kind of company CIC is, so I could add “CIC: innovative coworking community” to elicit more targeted interest and conversation. This works for online events as well, where you can edit the name that appears below your picture. 

7. Talk to the outsiders

When you scan a room at a networking event, you’ll likely see some folks sticking to the perimeter who may be at the event alone. They are probably eager to have someone to talk to. Strike up a conversation with one of them rather than taking the more intimidating route of trying to work your way into an already-formed group conversation. Don’t know what to talk about, though? Check out the next tip.  

8. Be genuine

This one may sound cheesy, but you will always make a more meaningful connection when you are being yourself. Remember that you don’t need to meet or please everyone in the room. If you can focus on having one genuine conversation with someone in a field or organization that you find interesting, you’ll have succeeded. You could even call out that you are not a natural at networking — this could be your unique icebreaker — and you’ll either learn that the person you’re talking to feels the same way (great, you’re in the same boat!) or they could take that hint and lead the conversation. 

Getting ready to network as a reluctant networker

Remember that you’re not alone. Lots of people don’t feel like natural networkers, but if you try some of these tips, you may find that it doesn’t have to be as awkward or draining as it seems. 

Practicing will make the feat of networking more approachable, and there are currently plenty of online opportunities, as well as the usual in-person ones, to test out your new skills.

Check out our event calendars to find virtual and in-person networking opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs.