When I quit a prestigious internship a few months after graduation to start blogging full time I knew my success would largely depend on how well I networked. But, like most post-graduates, the thought of networking made me want to run and hide. At first I found it profoundly awkward. However, I decided to live by the “fake it until you make it” mentality, and eventually it got easier.
And I’m not the only one who struggled to get going. I asked some of the most outgoing and well connected women I know how they feel about networking, and they all admitted to finding it hard at first. But here are their top tips for braving the nerves and networking like a pro…
TREAT NETWORKING LIKE A SPORT
“Unless you were born with a knack for it, networking is like a sport – it gets easier the more you practice. In the early days I forced myself to get more comfortable putting myself out there by turning up to work events on my own. Sometimes it can feel daunting to approach a group of people who clearly know each other well and are in deep conversation. So make it easier by looking around for people who are on their own too. Chances are, they’ve been trying to pluck up the courage to approach you!” – Naomi Mdudu, editor of The Lifestyle Edit
WHAT YOU LACK IN CONFIDENCE, MAKE UP FOR IN FRIENDLINESS
“Whenever I’m feeling nervous about networking, I remind myself we’re all just people. It’s my belief that no matter how professional the situation, people are more likely to want to work with you if you are genuinely nice. I project the kindness and friendliness I hope others will extend to me. And it’s OK if I don’t feel that being reflected back – I know I’m only responsible for my own actions. But the most high-powered people I’ve met also happened to be the most gracious, kind and interested too. Ultimately we all want to work with people we get along with on a personal level.” – Monica Welburn, editor of The Elgin Avenue
SEEK OUT A MENTOR
“It’s a great idea to find a mentor. Reach out to someone you admire and offer to take them out for coffee. At worst, they could decline and at best, you will have made a valuable connection (and oftentimes, a friend). Choose your mentor by asking yourself, where do I want to be in 10 years‘ time? Then find someone in that role/at that company and reach out to them – I find the best way is via social media, on Twitter or LinkedIn, but sometimes a good old-fashioned email can work wonders.” – Natalie Hughes, founder of The Fashion Digital
TAP YOUR EXISTING CONTACTS FOR NEW CONNECTIONS
“When I was first starting out I found it really helpful to attend events with friends in the same industry – especially if they already knew people at the event and could make introductions. Your current contacts are an invaluable resource, so bring a friend along and circulate together. And never underestimate the power of a follow up email after you’ve met someone new. Just say how wonderful it was to meet them and open up a window for future communication.” – Emily Johnston, editor of Fashion Foie Gras
ALWAYS FOLLOW UP
“When I was younger, I missed so many opportunities to stay in touch with inspirational and interesting people because I was embarrassed about coming across as too pushy. Now, even if I’ve only spoken to someone at an event for a few minutes, I follow up the next day with a quick message to say how nice it was to meet them and that it would be great to stay in touch. You can this it via email, or send a tweet or an Instagram comment. I’ve developed so many great relationships in this way and was even offered an amazing job after following up with an editor I met at a Madonna concert!” – Jessica Vince, founder of DRESSR
What are your top networking tips? Leave a comment below if you’re happy to share…
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2016.
Images by Charlotte Bryer-Ash