“Networking is the key to finding new opportunities, it’s a terrific way to advance your career and grow your business.”

If networking is so full of promise, why do most people get a sinking feeling when they hear the word?

Learning to connect with strangers can be challenging! Even confident, capable professionals often feel awkward and intimidated at a networking event. The key to moving past this discomfort is simple: instead of networking to gain (connections, opportunities, business, etc.), look for ways to give.

When I joined Business Networking International (BNI), I knew networking could help me grow my business, but it felt strange to show up full of self interest and self promotion. Looking around the room, I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.

I started reaching out to people – not for what they could offer me, but to find out how I could help them. I introduced myself, and then introduced people to each other. The more people I talked to, the more connections and opportunities I saw among the group and within my own network. Once I set my own interests aside, networking felt more natural.

I truly believe that whatever you give will come back to you in some way, often completely unexpected. When you shift your perspective from “what can I get” to “how can I contribute” magic happens and networking becomes a rewarding experience. In my first year, one-third of my business revenue resulted from connections I made through BNI – in addition I learned ways to build my business and support team.

In my second year with BNI, I became the chapter mentor, welcoming new people and helping them build their networking skills. My contribution and support were greatly appreciated and led to stronger exchanges among members. My efforts earned me recognition as the Master Networker of the Year. Although it was wonderful to receive the award, the real reward was in the satisfaction of making great connections.

Top 3 Ways to Improve Your Networking Skills:

  1. Play the role of the host, no matter where you are. Thank people for coming and make introductions among the group.
  2. Stop talking and start listening. Show genuine interest in others.
  3. Always look for ways in which you can contribute.