Do you feel like a confident networker? Neither did I, when I first started out. Then my VICTORY Formula changed everything.
“You are such a natural networker! I could never have your confidence!” I feel amused – and a little bit awkward – when people tell me this kind of thing. The truth is that I’m an introvert and, in my childhood, I was labeled “the shy girl.” But at the same time, I appreciate the acknowledgment of just how far I’ve come in my journey to build confidence and pursue my life and business goals.
In the early stages of my career, networking events indeed made me feel like a shy little girl who wanted to hide behind her mum’s long plaid 70s skirt, waiting for that blessed moment when I could finally go home and curl up under a blanket with a good book.
However, when I moved to a new country and had to start from scratch, I realized I had no choice but to network to find friends and business connections. It was time to get over my fear of networking.
My network has subsequently been a powerful tool that has not only supported my career and personal growth, but later helped me to successfully launch and grow three businesses.
I’ve learned many important networking lessons over the last two decades. The catalyst behind them all was my VICTORY Formula, a framework I designed that enabled me to rewrite the rules of engagement so that I could build connections in ways that suited my introverted nature. The formula has since helped many introverted (and extroverted) networkers start meaningful business relationships with greater ease and joy.
Confident Networking Lesson Number 1: There is Always a Learning Curve
My early attempts at networking were pretty disastrous. I would stumble over my words, and generally feel like a rabbit caught in headlights.
I started to observe what other people did. But, as most of them appeared to be so at ease moving from one conversation to the next, it didn’t really help me.
I even bought a few books to help me learn networking best-practices. It was great to finally understand what I should be doing, and many of the tips shared were helpful. But none of the books I read helped me prepare mentally for the challenge ahead of me.
Then one day, at a leadership training event, we were taught “self-coaching.” We were encouraged to find a problem we were experiencing, then brainstorm solutions before categorizing them and making an action plan. That was the birth of my VICTORY Formula.
Confident Networking Lesson Number 2: Implement the VICTORY Formula
The formula mapped out my way forward. It consists of seven elements:
V stands for vision. When mingling with strangers, understanding my bigger vision made me feel like it was worth the effort.
I is for intention. My vision helped me get intentional about mastering the skills I needed to succeed. Once networking became a key priority, it cleared doubt from my path.
C means courage, which was often needed in the early stages of my networking journey. Over time, this courage gave way to confidence … and that helped me to stay in the game.
T stands for being true to myself. This was an important reminder not to be tempted to feel as though I needed to be anyone other than myself. It’s only when you show up as your best self that you can confidently start meaningful relationships.
O refers to the obstacles that we all face when learning new skills. Being true to myself helped me plan ahead to determine how I would respond to obstacles on my journey.
R is for rules that guide my actions. These gave me permission to grow at my own pace, to make mistakes and call them “fascinating,” and to celebrate all my achievements no matter how small.
Finally, the Y reminds me that “Yes! I can do this.”
The Formula played a central role in my ability to learn, grow and start feeling more comfortable while networking. So much so, I’ve devoted half of my book, A Shy Girl’s Guide to Networking, to sharing the formula with others who are looking to up-level their networking confidence.
Confident Networking Lesson Number 3: Networking is a Three-Step Process
Another big realization for me was that networking is a game of three parts – before, during, and after the event. I discovered that it’s what you do before and after that really determines your success. It’s not just a case of showing up with a pocketful of business cards.
Understanding the three-step process enabled me to break things down and master the art of networking bit by bit. This also helped me to see the results of each new action, which motivated me to take the next action, and so on.
Confident Networking Lesson Number 4: Get Out There and Try
As my own journey shows, mastering the art of networking can take time and courage, but with the help of the VICTORY Formula, you can accelerate your growth.
After all, no amount of theory can replace practical exercises, as much as we introverts might like to absorb all the learnings from books in the comfort of our own homes.
There is no shortcut. In order to master the skill of confident networking, you’ll need to get out there and try the lessons yourself. But I encourage you to go at your own pace. In the early days, I decided that if I was feeling overwhelmed after half an hour, that was already a good start, and it was OK for me to leave.
To give you one final word of encouragement, networking can open new universes to you, and endless possibilities.
My network, for example, has enabled me to launch three businesses at zero cost and become an international public speaker, and now an author too … I met my mentor and publisher through a networking contact!
You just never know where your next “Hello” will take you in life, and that’s an exciting prospect!
If you’re eager to improve your skills and build your networking confidence, all the knowledge and guidance you need is in Melitta’s highly actionable and inspiring new book, A Shy Girl’s Guide to Networking.