While many people know that networking is necessary to meet more people, develop new relationships, and often convert acquaintances into clients, they frequently still resist it. As an adult, meeting new people in unfamiliar situations can often transport us back to the fifth grade school lunch table and with that image, the feelings of insecurity, and the desire to be accepted that comes with it.
But networking is really just about getting to know someone else and trying to find alignment between their goals and your goals and determine how you can mutually support each other.
So if we approach these situations with the anticipation of everyone coming out a winner, why is it sometimes still so nerve-wracking and why do we resist it?
One of the reasons that networking can seem difficult is that many people feel uncomfortable talking about themselves. When this happens, they often do not put their best foot forward, they feel nervous rather than confident, and therefore fail to ask for what they want, share what they have to offer, or otherwise make the positive impression they intended to.
Why people don’t like talking about themselves
As a career coach, I often hear the phrase, “I don’t like talking about myself.” Yeah, I get that, but what I am really hearing in most cases is that they don’t know HOW to talk about themselves. Without the right messaging and approach, it’s easy to understand why people don’t like talking about themselves and how wonderful they truly are. They feel it may come across as arrogant, fake, or rambling.
But you can learn to speak about yourself without feeling boastful or conceited. There are tools you can use to help you get clear on your value offering, tell your career story effectively, and confidently engage with others. And remember – it is not bragging if it is true.
Tools to build powerful speaking points about yourself
- Mine your accomplishments. Make a list of results that you created in your current or most recent job. Review the path of success you have carved throughout the course of your career and use those to boost your confidence that you have genuine value to offer and a great story to tell.
- Take an assessment. Reliable and validated assessment tools like DISC, CliftonStrengths, MBTI, just to name a few, can help provide you with words to use that accurately describe your personality, work style, communication and behavioral strengths, and/or your leadership qualities. The insights these tools provide serve to support what you say about yourself and take the subjectivity out of your thought process.
- Past performance appraisals. Performance appraisals are rich sources of defining your professional value and are fair fame when it comes to pulling together speaking points about yourself. Responsibilities, projects, goals, training, and stretch assignments will be captured in these gems of your success. This is likely where you will find metrics to validate your performance against established goals. Use those to illustrate how the workplace and company is better now than before you joined it. Don’t be shy! You worked for it. You did it. Own it.
- Conduct an informal 360-degree assessment of yourself by asking others for feedback. Ask those who have been impacted by your work, leadership style, or mentorship, why they like working with you and what advantage you bring to the team. Use the feedback to authenticate what you already know about yourself and use it to strengthen your conviction about your value offering and how you communicate it to others.
- Craft your elevator pitch. We’ve all heard about these and the importance of having one for networking and job search, but why is it important? An elevator pitch is a brief (30-45 seconds) statement that you share when someone says, “Tell me about yourself.” The formula is simple: introduce yourself, get across a key point (or two), and begin building a connection with someone. Once you have it together you can rely on something meaningful to say each and every time you are asked. Instant anxiety reducer!
Remember, at a networking event, people are there to speak about themselves and learn more about you, so ask about them to provide them space to shine, and know they are a warm audience, excited to hear about how they can establish a meaningful connection with you too!