I can remember the first time I was sent a ticket to attend a networking event.
A dread came over me.
I immediately headed to Google. “What is networking?” I read too much about the benefits of networking and how to become a professional networker and overwhelmed myself.
Within 2 minutes, I had told myself that this was a bad idea, and I would be terrible at this. Google told me I needed to remember everyone's name, explain my niche and be flowing with insightful knowledge. When in reality, I would be blushed with fear and looking for the nearest escape route.
We can do this. We tell ourselves stories in our heads. This keeps us in our comfort zone.
So, after a good few days of stressing, the networking day came.
8:15 am, I was there, filled with dread.
I collected my name tag and scoped the place.
In all honesty, I shadowed Ian, my boss, I didn’t leave his side. He knew people and I didn’t.
Speaking to people he was speaking to and only them. I sipped my coffee with my shaky hands, trying to act nonchalant.
In my head, I stuck out like a sore thumb. 'Everyone' was looking at me thinking “She’s a bit young to be here, she won’t know anything.”
The first presentation commenced. If you asked me what it was about, I would not have known. I was in my own head, as seen in the image above. Questioning myself and judging my demeanour, “Did I sound interesting enough?” and “My tone was so dull, they were definitely bored.”
I hoped the presentation would go on forever, so I could sit and listen rather than talking to people I don’t know. Of course, it didn’t. The presentation finished, people stood up and the mingling started again.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be confident and go make my own connections. But every time I was about to take the step, the dread washed over me. So I stayed as a shadow.
I walked out of the centre both overwhelmed and disappointed. Disappointed that I didn’t push myself, but even showing up took a whole tonne of courage.
I still wanted to celebrate the small milestones. Accepting the invitation and showing up to an unknown situation took bravery, so I will celebrate that. Don’t rain on my parade.
Here we are, 4 months later.
I won’t lie to you and say my fear is gone and I'm a bird that’s flown the nest.
Confidence doesn’t come from snapping your fingers, you work on confidence. How? By pushing yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone.
4 months later, I finally stepped outside. I split myself off from Ian and did it on my own.
No, I’m not looking for a medal or a round of applause.
“Well, that’s the whole point of networking!” Yes, I know that, Brian. You be an 18-year-old female in a room filled with businessmen and women and tell me it’s not daunting.
I toddled off, talked to new people, found an interest in their business and their day-to-day workings, and found common ground to connect with people.
Situations like these can make you forget that these people, as influential as they seem, are still just people. If you tell yourself that you are inferior to these people, you will become nervous and lose your confidence.
We all murmur thoughts like this. We must identify that it's in our heads and not a reality. Then we are free to excel.
Now I have done it, got myself out there and pushed my comfort zone...
I can’t wait to get back!
But what changed?
I actually started to believe in myself. It works miracles, you know? I realised that I was capable of talking to new and influential people without persuading myself I was coming across as boring.
Once I knew this, I was off. Ready to grow.
This story might resonate with yourself, it doesn’t have to be networking, it can relate to any situation in life.
Going into something completely unknown with doubts in your head can be overwhelming. We want to make lasting impressions and enjoy our time, but that can be hard when you’re lacking confidence.
So, take it from me, a young woman making her way into the business world, you are capable of anything.
But it needs to start within, and it won’t get easier overnight. Confidence takes attention, self-awareness and willingness.
However, when it’s achieved, it opens new avenues and opportunities.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life Is about creating yourself”.
So, go! Do that thing that scares you, it’ll be scary now but in a few months, you will be so glad that you went out and did it!
Image From 'Newton Aycliffe Business Park'