A Guide to Overcoming Your Networking Anxiety

Ah, networking. Is there anyone who doesn’t dread it?

There’s no hiding from the fact that being in the same room with complete strangers and attempting to impress them at the same time can sound like the most intimidating situation to be in.

And being an introvert really doesn’t help. I hear you.

But despite the universal awkwardness, and after realizing just how powerful it has been for my professional life, I tried to find ways to make it less painful, and little more exciting.

I’m lucky enough to have recently started my internship at iLab (start-ups hub funded by the Queensland Government), and to be presented with countless opportunities to meet very inspiring individuals and entrepreneurs from around the world through our start-ups accelerator program.

Bear in mind it was still very intimidating for me – a college student with bare minimum experience – to be surrounded by some of the best minds in engineering and CEOs of some of the world’s most successful start-ups.

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I was very fortunate to have met Terry Dehghani in person, a sports expert slash travel blogger, who flew all the way from Tel Aviv to represent HYPE and launch Australia’s first Sports Accelerator program here with iLab.

I managed to build up enough courage to approach him and spent a solid hour talking about career goals and stealing some networking tips & tricks from up his sleeve.

To sum it all up, here are 4 simple steps to overcome your networking jitters, and make it a little less dreading:

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“Start telling people what you want to do, not what you think you should do.”

Careers and career paths are no longer linear for a lot of reasons, and this ability to shift directions if/when we feel unhappy about where we are, certainly gives more freedom and control over our work.

But the reality is that many of us (myself included) are often drowned in thoughts like “Is this what I really want to do with my life?” and too often, we write off the idea of doing something we really like before we even tried because we fear the feeling of rejection or having to start over.

Terry told me how when he first moved to Israel people would ask him “What do you want to do?” and that his first respond would always be “Oh, I came from a legal background but I’ve always loved sports.”

He learned how it didn’t really answer the question and started approaching the industry that better fits his personality and career goals. He now works for HYPE, does what he loves, and has never been happier.

Ask yourself that same question, and take time to reflect on your goals and really learn your skill set (soft skills matter too). Once your objective is clear, you’ll be surprised by how you can approach people more confidently, with less pressure and more excitement.

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“Project yourself in a way that shows confidence, but not cockiness.”

The idea of networking still generates a physical reaction in me, similar to queueing for a roller coaster ride: sweaty palms, nervous chatter, and a slightly queasy stomach.

It can be intimidating walking up to someone you don’t know, but a promising body language can go a long way. Remember when your mom would tell you to stand up straight? She was on to something.

You want to constantly appear open, approachable, and friendly at all time. A handshake is also one of ways to get someone’s attention with the instill sense of easiness and warmth – if done right. And seriously, smile.

IMG_1231Also, can we all agree that alcohol does help? Cheers

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You will be surrounded by experts or attendees in your field, so take advantage of picking their brains. Take what they say seriously, and you’ll be surprised how much you can gain in return.

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The Precinct, an innovation hub delivered from the Advance Queensland initiative

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As constant public sharing of professionalism become the norm in this highly tech-savvy era, we can all agree that the digital age of networking is a blessing to the introvert in all of us.

Once the event comes to an end, that’s where the real works begin. “Goodbye” in networking essentially means “Welcome” to the world of Emails, LinkedIn, and Facebook connections.

Armed with a stack of name cards, check back in with them whenever possible and follow up any future work collaborations.

Do you have any other great tip worth mentioning? Let me know. Good luck, and I hope you rock your next networking event!

Check out Terry’s career and travelling stories here.

 

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Beach Hopping in Byron Bay

You know those awkward days between Christmas and New Years when you’re just kinda lost and don’t know what to do? I knew better than to fool myself into thinking that I was going to be productive – we all know it was going to be spent binge watching some trashy TVs and eating junk. So a couple of friends and I decided to might as well get out of town, and here’s documenting our visit to the small cosy coastal town of Byron Bay, New South Wales.

DAY 1

If there are two things I love doing when traveling, is going on a roadtrip, and going to the waters. Both of which I got to do during this 3-day roadtrip I will take you through. We rented a car from Brisbane and slowly made our way to Byron Bay and made it to our first stop at the Famous Yatala Pies just in time for breakfast. I treated myself to their classic steak&mushroom pie and apple turnover, and just thinking about those pies got me low-key drooling right now, so let’s get a move on.

Our second stop along the way (about 100km south of Brisbane) was Springbrook National Park, located just before the border of New South Wales. After seeing tons of pictures of the park’s Natural Bridge from Google, you would expect the view to be no less than perfect. And after about a half an hour hike through a beautiful subtropical rainforest (it was even better after the rain), it’s safe to say that no pictures could do the place justice. Definitely one of the waterfalls to see when you visit Queensland, hands down.

After about an hour drive across the border, we checked into our accommodation, Two Birds & The Aviary. While far from the usual Airbnb gig I’d normally go for (a tent with a sleeping bag, a shared bathroom, and communal kitchen), I’m proud to say that I survived my first legit camping experience! I’m also really happy about the fact that the camping ground had direct access to Tallows Beach and is an easy roll in to town.

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DAY 2

We started the day with an attempt to catch sunrise at Cape Byron (only to be greeted by rain), which is the most easterly point of mainland Australia and home to the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse. Nestled in under the Lighthouse is the Wategos Beach, surrounded by stunning cliffs and crashing waves.

After breakfast, we were headed to Whites Beach, one of Byron’s hidden gems. Take note though, it was quite a struggle for us to get there. We had to travel down a dirt road that winds through the rainforest, our car broke down (God bless the people who stopped by to help jump start our car in the middle of nowhere), almost an hour spent on waiting due to limited parking spots, and trekked along a narrow path down to the beach.

But trust me, it’s worth sweat and sunburn. From white sands, crystal clear water and secluded rock pools, I’m so happy we didn’t give up when we had a million reasons to. We continued with lunch by the beach, a little stroll around town and ended the day in Main Beach, surrounded by live music, sunset, and my loved ones.

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DAY 3

Not being much of an early riser, I’d make exception for a sunrise by the beach, because all the lack of sleep always pays off when Mother Nature puts on her finest show. The track from my camp to Tallow Beach itself is literally a path to paradise taken right out of Nicholas Sparks’ novel. While no sunrise will ever be the same, this one will forever remain one of my favorites.

We ended our trip with a short visit to The Farm, and if you know me, I’ve always had a soft spot for places like this one. From the sunflower plots, cattle-dotted fields, to their restaurant, produce store, bakery, and a florist, I couldn’t stop roaming around this rustic-themed oasis like a kid in a candy store. After grabbing some quick drinks and fish&chips, we drove back to Brisbane and shamelessly stopped at Yatala to bring some frozen pies home, again (it’s that good!).

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