You changed your outfit three times. You perfected your hair and makeup. You've spent days brainstorming conversation topics. You tell yourself you're capable AF, and you try your best to ignore your racing heartbeat and clammy hands.
No, you're not about to go on a first date.
You're heading to a networking event, which is somehow so, so much worse.
Seriously, is there ANYTHING more awkward than trying to talk business/professional skills/life goals with someone you've never met, in a completely forced social setting?
No. (Except for maybe going on a first date with a dude you met on the internet.)
And alas, both are necessary evils in today's sad world.
But here's some not-so-sad news: Networking doesn't have to be terrible. With the right tricks and tools — shoutout to our newest obsession, Shapr — networking can not only be effective, it can actually be (gasp!) enjoyable.
You're just going to have to trust us on this one.
Here are four networking secrets you didn't know you needed.
1. Embrace the less is more philosophy.
We've all heard the adage about quality over quantity. Well, the same idea holds true when you're talking about networking: Success comes when you focus on making the RIGHT connections as opposed to MORE connections.
Take a networking event, for example: Wouldn't you rather have two meaningful conversations with people in your industry than blindly hand out your entire stack of business cards to every person in the room?
So whether it's in person or online, make a point to ONLY reach out to the people whose backgrounds align with your goals and you'll find yourself networking smarter, not networking more.
2. Stop being sorry.
It can feel natural to lead with an apology when you reach out to a recently-established contact. Whether you're apologizing for being a nuisance (you're not) or for the delay in reaching out (just stop), starting off your correspondence by saying sorry will most definitely leave a bad impression.
If you present yourself as regretful and negative, you'll be perceived as such. Always lead with enthusiasm and remember: You could very well be an asset to your contact, so you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for.
3. Practice networking karma.
It's easy to get caught up in forging your own connections when you're in networking mode. But helping build relationships between other people isn't just good karma — it could very well benefit you down the line.
Next time someone reaches out to you about an opportunity that isn't exactly up your alley, don't just say no thanks and archive the email. Make a point to think of someone in your network who might be a good fit, and try your best to foster a new connection.
You'll get in your good deed for the day, and you'll also leave a seriously good impression on both parties. Read: You'll be front and center in their minds whenever another (more fitting) opportunity comes across their desks. Win-win.
4. Use ALL of the tools available to you.
Listen, it's 2017. Networking isn't just about showing up to a wine and cheese event with a dusty stack of business cards in hand. Taking advantage of the latest innovations in the networking world is a serious necessity when it comes to achieving career success.
Enter Shapr, a networking app that's revolutionizing the way people connect. All you need to do is simply create a profile that includes work background, interests, goals and location, and then swipe until you find someone you're interested in connecting with. If (and ONLY if) the interest is mutual, then boom! It's a match. Both parties are notified, a chat is started and you're one step closer to taking the conversation offline and into the real world.
Seriously, did networking even exist before this app?
No more events needed. Avoid the crowd and awkwardness and meet relevant people who are willing to get coffee!
Download Shapr for iOS and Android to start making professional connections in your city. After all, it's free!