If networking events cause you to cringe, you're not alone. In fact, science has found networking often causes people to feel "dirty."

But that doesn't mean you should avoid networking opportunities. In fact, your success may depend on your ability to develop a healthy network. Study after study shows networking can be the key to professional advancement.

So how do you schmooze with high-profile people without feeling icky? Here are five strategies that can help you network without the ick factor:

1. Participate in professional organizations. 

Professional organizations offer meetings and events that can lead to natural networking opportunities. Joining a professional organization may also help you find a mentor, or it may give you a chance to mentor someone else.

Additionally, joining professional organizations provides opportunities to learn about changes in business trends, and you'll gain education that can improve your performance.

2. Focus on what you have to offer. 

If you view networking as a self-serving promotional tool, you won't gain much. Other people aren't interested in one-sided relationships.

Before you approach your next networking opportunity, think about what you can give, not just what you want to gain. Consider the skills, strategies, introductions, and opportunities you may be able to offer others.

3. Acknowledge the value in networking with your peers. 

Networking shouldn't just be about impressing your superiors so you can climb the corporate ladder. Instead, you can gain a lot by networking with your colleagues.

Developing relationships with peers can reduce isolation and improve job satisfaction. After all, it's your counterparts who understand the day-to-day challenges you face.

4. Focus on sharpening your networking skills. 

Don't measure your networking success by the number of LinkedIn connections you gained or the number of business cards you handed out.

Instead, consider whether you sharpened your networking skills. After all, you can't control how many people subscribe to your services or book you for an event. But you can control whether you improved your skills.

5. Network with people outside of your profession. 

Don't limit networking to people within your profession. You can learn new strategies--such as customer services skills or social media tips--from people in a different line of work.

Whether you attend a personal development workshop or you enroll in a new course, meeting people in other areas can open the door to new opportunities. It can also be a good way to network naturally, which can be key to building long-term relationships.

Keep Networking

If you feel a little slimy by networking, you might be doing it wrong. Keep practicing and working toward forming natural connections with others.

Make it a goal to meet great people who are doing cool things. If the conversation happens to provide you with an opportunity to advance your career, consider it a bonus.

Published on: Feb 22, 2018