Em writes in:
I’m terrible at networking, which is a great hindrance on the progress of my career. I have a lot of social anxiety especially when I first meet someone. Just the thought of a meetup with a bunch of strangers gives me a panic attack.
What’s worse is that a lot of early work in almost every department is day-playing gigs. The best connections I’ve made only happen after a few days of working with the same people when I start to get comfortable and come out of my shell.
I’ve been told I’m likable but the first day or two working with people I’m all business, very serious and not all that personable. If all I get is that one or two days with those people, I never hear from them again which is always a bummer.
I practice my craft on unpaid projects or by sharing my work anonymously online and have seen the quality of my work increase a lot from when I first started. Yet I feel like I should be much further along professionally if only I could make things easier for myself socially.
There’s only one good way to put this: fake it.
Like anything else, networking takes practice. You have to practice being friendly and practice smiling. You have to be aware of your posture and facial expressions. All of these things take a certain amount of mental energy and focus. But if you keep reminding yourself, you’ll get better.
The nice thing, if you’re shy or an introvert, is that you don’t have to be outgoing. People love a good listener. Pay attention to what others are saying, be interested.
If it takes you a couple days to get comfortable talking with the rest of the crew, that’s okay. Just hang around. Be part of the group, even if you don’t have something to say. Especially if you don’t have something to say.
I know it seems daunting, now, but keep at it. You’ll get better, I promise.