I’m excited every time I learn about a new networking opportunity. I highly anticipate Networking Mixers and Happy Hours. Then the excitement slowly wanes as I remember, “I have to talk to people.” The dreaded talking to people fear is a staple personality trait that my sister, brother and I all possess. My mother recently invited my younger siblings and I to a holiday event. This led to my younger sister and I consoling each other as we both exclaimed, “Oh, God we’re going to have to talk to people.” Its not that we don’t like people. We love meeting new people and learning new things. The problem is we are afraid of exactly what we’re supposed to say.

Ironically, this doesn’t happen to me when I’m doing public speaking or performing. Its those darn personal moments in which people ask standard questions and you are expected to give standard answers. “Yes” “I work at…” “I live in …” “Its been raining at lot lately.” And then what? You’re forced with the dilemma of thinking of something that will either continue the conversation or end it, so that you can return to the safety of your solo corner in the far right of the room. The worst problem is saying the wrong thing. This is the unfortunate moment when your lips form and say the exact opposite of what your brain would have preferred. Its always easier to network online. All you have to do is click a button and abracadabra, you’ve “liked” someone or “joined their network.”. Networking in person is definitely an art. I find that I’m always better at networking in relaxed settings.

Our Legaci Question: How do you feel about networking and what are some of your suggestions for people that are apprehensive about the networking process?

Jessica Ann Mitchell

Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of The National Black Pages & Black Bloggers Connect. She also writes on her personal blog at OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM email her at info@OurLegaci.com.

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12 thoughts on “Awkward Black Girl In Networking

  1. I am one of the most reclusive and socially awkward people i know. I hate networking and have found ways around it. I’ve found that most people don’t know how to take my dry sense of humor, bluntness or vocabulary. I’ve been told however that networking is a necessary evil. *sigh. Loved the article though sis. As usual.

  2. Thanks for commenting Nikki. Yeah, networking is tough. Especially for us “awkward” people. I’m going to keep trying though. One day, I’ll master the art of the endless completely comfortable “talk”. lol

  3. A couple of people have suggested I join a community theatre group. You will learn to interact with others and ‘perform’. It will help shy individuals and prepare you for the networking “stage”. Once you get over being nervous the conversations will flow.

  4. @Sophia, thanks for commenting. The funny thing is, I’m a trained performer. I’ve been doing theater and acting for years. Its the off the stage convos that have me anxious. Lol. I’ll get the hang of it one day. But its definitely a good suggestion! Thanks a bunch.

  5. Great post! With me being in the hotel industry for so many years primarily in Sales I am required to network (recently I have transitioed out of th ehotel industry – Praise God!!!)… however I LOVE NETWORKING!! The one thing that I know is that everyone there has anxiety… don’t think that they don’t.. they are also thinking the same thoughts as you are… when I attend networking functions I am able to adjust my personality according to whatever event… dor example if I attend a Chamber meeting in the AM for breakfast I know there are more small business owners there looking to obtain new clients… if its an evening event like happy hour – most people there are coming from work and depending on exactly what day it is there is a story to be told about their day.. they want to unwind more in my opinion… my suggestion is analyze the particular event.. replace those thoughts in your mind with something else like if you are thinking “why am I here” replace the thought with “I have something to share with these people and someone here will connect me with the right person to expand on my idea” or give yourself a goal when you attend… like at this event I am going to connect with 3 people and follow up with them after for coffee to learn more about them… I find that putting their needs before your own works as well.. the more you listen and interested in what they are doing they more the other person will connect you with whatever you need to do. Does that make sense? ALWAYS smile no matter what.. and a firm hand shake goes a long way. Sorry for the long response. Cheers!

  6. @Carletta, Thanks for commenting. I like how you dissected and interpreted the different networking environments. Tailoring our discussion approaches according to the mood of the people and event is a great idea. Excellent suggestion!

  7. We have to approach networking not as a chore. Just find a common interest. I was told at an event for MBA Women International, NYC Chapter, to just ask someone three things they are passionate about. It’s an interesting conversation starter and gives you a chance to be remembered by people. You never know what you may have in common which can lead to a very good conversation and someone who wants to be in your network.

  8. I don’t have a problem, love being in the company of other people, yet it can be a little intimidating. So for me I start with basic conversation, in search of a mutual point, avoiding directly jumping into business related subjects. By doing so you somewhat control the discussion, it doesn’t work all the time, but what does? I let the other person I am speaking with initiate that portion of our conversation.

    I find that most people are initially interested in who you are as a person, the business aspect comes later when they are comfortable with who you are. Going to networking events and aggressively handing cards is an exercise for your wrist. Lot’s of cards exchanged, just to wind up in the box along with a multitude of other cards. Relax, enjoy the scene, and let it flow naturally. Most of the people I maintain a relationship with and stay in touch started out with a basic conversation, and sometimes on the silly side.

  9. I Think VJ hit it right on the nose…basic conversation where you are in control….ease your way into a business conversation then again business just may not come up…….

  10. Thank you all for some great input. I am not sure if this will work in all settings; use the opportunity to learn about others. Ask questions about the person you are speaking with to let them talk. Likewise, only talk about yourself in response to questions they ask you. This way, the person feels good about the exchange; heard themselves speak (which we all know can be challenging) and will more time s than not, offer their card for a subsequent meeting. Having traveled and worked in 42 countries, this approach seems universal and fun. Have a blessed balance of the day and Happy Networking. Art Thomas, CEO / Producer – Main Man Films

  11. I can so relate to this article. The is an area of business I am uncomfortable with bc of my shyness. I’ve managed to avoid it but I really think I’m going to challenge myself to go to a networking event–alone and get to it. Thanks for the article.

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