I’ve lived my entire life by the code “it’s only awkward if you make it awkward.” My Myers-Briggs personality type is ENTJ, therefore, I’m naturally outgoing and easily able to adapt in social situations.
However, I’ve recently experienced slight timidness during professional networking events.
This past Thursday, I attended a networking dinner/business etiquette workshop on campus. I had spent the previous week preparing for it. I had practiced how to walk, talk, look people in the eye, and resist the urge to look at my phone. I managed to perfect all of this, however, when it finally came down to the event, I admittedly felt awkward as hell.
I’m not sure why I felt awkward. I mean, I feel like when you’ve done the things I’ve done, nothing is really intimidating for you. I share my experiences on my blog for everyone to see, plus I model in the nude for the UNT art department when I need extra cash (long story, will probably blog about it later). But still, despite my unconventional experiences, I still felt somewhat awkward at this networking dinner.
I’ve been working for the same PR firm for almost two years, so I have made some steps into my career. However, the firm I work for works with creative types, like artists, musicians, and designers, so maybe, my awkwardness was due to the fact that I’m used to working with these specific types of clients, as opposed to big brands and corporate officials.
First off, I am thankful to go to a school that offers these workshops and events to prepare for the professional world. I learned a lot from the networking dinner, and these skills will be useful as I make advancements within my career. Aside from everything I took away that evening, there were a few things that I learned about combating awkwardness that weren’t taught at the workshop.
- Odds are, there’s probably going to be someone more nervous than you . – At these professional events, EVERYONE is concerned about making a good impression. You’re not the only one stressing out. Just keep it cool, be honest, and be yourself.
- Wear a coat or sweater over your shirt. – Thankfully, I was wearing a sweater that night, however, one of the other gentlemen at the dinner table next to us had the worst pit stains. This did not bode well when we raised our arms while practicing giving a toast. Yikes!
- Do not pull out your phone for any reason. – This past networking event was on campus, so I locked my phone and kept in my pocket as I earned Pocket Points. However, unless you are storing a potential employer’s contact information in your phone, you should not have any reason to be playing on it.
- Keep small talk going. – Yes, I know, everyone hates small talk, however, it’s important that when networking with people that will help you get ahead in your career that you don’t let the conversation die. Something may come up during your verbal transactions that could potentially spark and establish a connection. Try to avoid basic topics (i.e. the weather, traffic, etc.) unless it ties back to something that was previously said. Also, avoid getting political (unless, of course, you’re wanting your career to be in politics).
- Stay humble. – Employers aren’t fond of potential recruits who think they know everything. When at a networking event or a career fair, highlight your experiences and express an interest in learning and advancing within your career. Also, be polite, but don’t overdo it with the compliments. It may come across as insincere.
Networking events, career fairs, and work dinners can be nerve-wracking, however, if you remain polite, respectful, and authentic, they shall be a breeze for any young professional entering the working world.
And remember, in the words of Issa Rae, “you got this!”