By Amanda Chatel
When I quit my office manager job to become a full-time freelance writer, I knew I had to network. There was no way I was going to be able to blindly pitch to random magazines and women’s websites without contacts to send the pitches. But the thought of networking, the thought of having to talk to people, something I fundamentally hate to do, had me sick to my stomach. I’d force myself to go to media events where I’d stand there, drink in hand, like a wallflower. But the problem with networking is that you have to, at some point, open your mouth, and put yourself out there.
“If you’re new to networking, I’d recommend just going to as many events as you can,” Jennifer Yeko, rounder and recruiter at Ninjarecruiting, tells Bustle. “People are generally very friendly at events so just walk in with a smile on your face and look approachable.” In other words, don’t be the wallflower I was, with a perma-scowl.
Networking really does help in regards to not just getting your foot in the door, but making your way up the ladder. Since that’s the case, if you hate talking to people, but still need to network, here’s how you should approach it.
According to Yeko, a good first step is to join meetup groups. “A good way to practice networking is to join various meetup groups,” says Yeko. “People are generally very friendly and it’s a good way to meet people.”
With meetup groups, you know that people are there to meet and connect. No matter what your profession is, there are meetup groups for everything.
If going up to groups of people is on par with getting a root canal, then you should be the one who’s approachable. What this means is smiling, being friendly, and putting down your damn phone. No one is going to come talk to the person in the room who’s staring at their phone the whole time. It’s just not going to happen.
Yeko suggest always bringing business cards to network events. Business cards make for great conversation starters and, if you find yourself stumbling to share your contact information, you have it all right there on a card.
“The best networking tip I have is to arrive a bit early or right when an event starts,” says Yeko. “After an hour or so, groups can often form and become a bit cliquey, so arriving early or on time is one way to ensure you start making conversation and connections before groups form.”
This is most especially the case if you hate to talk to people. If you’re there early, people will come up to you to talk, because you just might even be the first one there. It definitely takes the pressure off, allowing you to relax at bit.
“I scan a room and look around to see which people and groups looks friendly and inviting,” explains Yeko. “It’s generally also much easier to network in a group of three or more as if you see two people talking they might be in a serious conversation already or flirting with each other, and you don’t want to interrupt that. Larger groups are much easier to infiltrate, for lack of a better word.”
Even for those who don’t mind talking to new people, networking isn’t always easy. But for those who hate having to keep a banter, small talk, and the rest of it that comes with networking, sticking to these few easy tips will make it all so much more bearable — and effective.
Amanda is a writer who divides her time between NYC and Paris. She’s a regular contributor to Mic, YourTango, Livingly, and TheBolde. Other bylines include: Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Forbes, YouBeauty, Huffington Post, The Frisky, and BlackBook.
Her greatest dream is to win a cheesecake eating contest while holding a baby panda.