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How to Overcome Networking Nerves for Tech Professionals

24 days ago by Max Abrams
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Photo of a networking event being hosted in the Manchester Office, with three speakers at the front.

Many people do not feel confident going to networking events.  

But what are networking nerves? Before attending a networking event, you may feel nervous about talking to new people, feel unsure about what to do or scared that you might ask the wrong questions.  

Sound familiar? Then read on and see what you can do to change this.  

What are the common reasons for networking nerves?  

Commonly, they include: 

  • Fear of rejection: Some people may feel hesitant to start new conversations, presenting ideas or making new connections in fear that others may not want to listen.  

  • Lack of confidence in social settings: Some may have limited confidence in their social skills, maintaining conversations or speaking in front of groups. 

  • Feeling out of place (Imposter Syndrome): Individuals may find themselves doubtful in their abilities, making them feel unsure that they belong in a professional tech environment.  

It’s important to remind yourself that these emotions are normal, and it’s likely there will be other people at these events feeling the same! Networking events can contribute greatly towards your career in tech and personal growth, from gaining collaborative opportunities, sharing ideas and insights, establishing meaningful connections and receiving personalised career advice. Don’t let your nerves, lack of confidence or imposter syndrome cause you to miss out! 

Practical tips to become more confident in your networking 

Research and planning 

Take time in researching the networking event’s topics, news, speakers and organisations in attendance. A sense of familiarity can build comfort and control feelings of uncertainty around what to expect from the event. 

Not only will this help you feel more comfortable about the topic, but you can also identify how the event can add value to your career development; plan out what questions you would like to ask and what takeaways would like to gain. You’ll have a plan of action for when you’re there and an opportunity to feel positive about what you are looking to gain from the event. 

Start with small steps  

Networking events vary in scale when considering attendee size, venue and activities. You can build confidence by firstly attending virtual events, where you have the comfort of your own surroundings. You’ll be able to gain insight on what a networking agenda looks like, whilst still listening to panel talks and industry insights, discovering what questions attendees are asking. From here, you can try attending bigger in-person events, then more intimate events. Along the way, encourage yourself to ask questions or participating in discussions. The more you do it the easier it will become. 

Have a concise elevator pitch  

One aspect that can be the biggest barrier in networking is being able to introduce yourself confidently. Preparing a concise ‘elevator pitch’ can help you feel more prepared going into these conversations; demonstrating professionalism and articulating your tech profile well.  

As you go into your introduction, you may want to adapt what you say depending on who you are talking to. For example, you can create instant connections by introducing yourself through means of similarity, by expressing a similar tech career journey or tech interests as the other person.  

Consider attending events that align with your interests 

A common misconception is that networking events must be work-related, however this is not always the case. You can build your confidence through attending social events that may link with more personal interests, such as sports, nature, or even tech-related interests such as gaming or coding. Use these events as practice in meeting new people, starting discussions, asking questions and building connections. You’ll be surprised how similar the experiences are with work-related networking events! 

Bring someone with you 

A familiar face can make you feel so much more comfortable when experiencing a new environment. They may encourage you to get more involved, or if they are familiar with  networking, you may be able to learn some tips from them. From opening up conversations, listening to how they contribute to talks or even how they organise meeting existing people in their network, bringing someone with you, can add so much value to your experience for future events.  

Engage in meaningful discussions 

When engaging in networking discussions, active listening is a crucial skill in creating meaningful conversations. Not only are you learning more and discovering new perspectives, but you can respond accordingly with your own valuable insights and questions to create a lasting impact with others. By expressing a genuine interest in others expertise and experiences, you will create true connections that can be beneficial in the long-term.  

Be your own cheerleader 

If you don’t participate properly, then it may always feel like an uncomfortable hurdle you’d rather not tackle, and you may not get the best out of the experience. Be your own cheerleader with positive self-talk along the way when encouraging yourself to get involved. Perhaps you could make a list of what you have to offer (tech expertise, your company’s services, your experience, great listener) and what you want to achieve each time - and reward yourself if you achieve it. For example, maybe the first time you simple want to attend and talk to one person in your area of expertise; the next time you talk to two people; next time you ask a question etc…  

However small the progress, celebrate that progress in a way that motivates you. You don't know how you will truly feel unless you try! Remember, other people may feel the same way and by pushing out of your comfort zone you could actually help others come out of theirs.  

Key takeaways:  

  1. With research, you can feel more comfortable by familiarising yourself on what the event is about, as well as creating an action plan on what you would like to takeaway from the event.
  2. Build your confidence step by step by starting with virtual events, to attending larger events and encouraging yourself to practice engagement each time.
  3. Practice attending social events that are in line with your interests to introduce a level of familiarity and build positive emotions.
  4. Bringing someone with you the first time, can make you feel calmer, and provide a mentor role in learning how to maximise your growth.  
  5. Push yourself out of your comfort zone with positive self-talk so you can get the most out of an event. 

How following up after a networking event matters  

You’ve attended a networking event and had a really great time. Your time networking doesn’t stop there! Successful networking includes following up with the people you have met, to ensure you have got the most out of an event. After initial interactions, consider reaching out to new connections and keep the relationship warm. By maintaining a good relationship, you can learn more about your new connection and unlock new potential opportunities ideal for the growth of your career.  

As well as making new connections, if you have attended some interesting talks or discovered new organisations, consider doing some further research or following the speakers or organisations; it will be useful to learn more about what impact they are making in the tech industry and perhaps it will provide some inspiration for your own journey or next networking conversations.  

Frequently asked questions  

I’m quite shy so I find it hard to start conversations, how do I overcome this? 

When preparing for a networking event, write down five potential questions you find interesting and want to learn more about. For example, consider asking questions about someone’s career, advice, what they enjoy most about their job or what inspires them. If it’s a technology specialist event, perhaps there is a hot topic you want to open a conversation about e.g. “have you started implement X”. 

What if I’m not enjoying an event?  

Are you finding yourself not interested in the topics presented? Or are you feeling overwhelmed? Before choosing to leave, it’s worth exploring why you are feeling this way and how you can resolve it, so you can make sure you are still getting the most out of an event. Sometimes it can help to reflect on “why” you feel a certain way, and sit with it for a while, before having a knee jerk reaction.  

If you aren’t enjoying due to lack of interest, try opening up more conversations with new people, researching about new organisations you came across or you might just simply need to take a break, especially if you are feeling anxious.  

How do I know if a networking event is right for me? 

When exploring the details of an event, assess how it might align with your career prospects, industry or skills; most importantly if it builds excitement for you!  

You can be even find out about relevant events by following certain specialists, hashtags or news in your industry such as on LinkedIn, or through word of mouth with colleagues or friends.  

How can I make a good impression? 

By being genuine, listening attentively and making sure you are driving a two-way conversation through meaningful, open questions to learn more. Avoid talking about just yourself or your achievements as this can come across as close minded.  

How can I build my networking skills in my work? 

Networking can actually be a part of your day-to-day work life; with the interactions you make with your colleagues, managers and stakeholders. When attending meetings, make sure you participate and learn more about the people you are working with to unravel how you can work together effectively. Active listening is also an important asset in building relationships.  

About us 

Gravitas Recruitment Group are networking advocates, driven by our love for building strong relationships with candidate and client communities across the market, offering insightful events across Technology and Insurance. Fancy coming along to our next one? Keep an eye out for our newest events here 

About the author - Max Abrams  

Max joined the Gravitas Manchester office as a fresh graduate back in September 2021, excited to embark on a recruitment career, providing recruitment solutions in the Housing Systems market. Starting as a graduate he has had to push himself out of his comfort zone to not just attend networking events, but to also organise and host multiple events, benefiting from the rewards of building a vibrant personal network, as result. With multiple lunch clubs and MVP nominations under his belt, and even winning a team holiday to Krakow, Max was promoted to Senior Recruitment Consultant in December 2023. 

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