The Networking Mindset: It Starts with Confidence

By Jessica Chan, Senior Student Recruitment Officer, CPABC

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, networking is never easy. You are constantly on high alert and given a short amount of time to make the best impression of yourself to as many people in the room. You may have already put on your best outfit, crafted your elevator pitched, and even practiced that million-dollar smile; but everyone wants to be the most memorable person in the room – so how do you differentiate yourself?

As the Senior Student Recruitment Officer at CPABC, I have had the pleasure to meet a wide variety of students at many networking events. I can tell you, it is absolutely normal to be nervous at networking events, the stakes are often very high and there are no second chances at first impressions. But the good news is, luck favours the prepared. Based on my experience, I have summarized the key to feeling sharp and successful at every single event. Here is the first part.

The Handshake

Confidence is state of mind, but there are ways we can physically portray confidence – and it starts with the contact. At the Workplace Skills Conference at University of Victoria, I had the opportunity to meet Sybil Verch, Executive Producer and Host of The Wealth Life, who taught me the winning technique for the perfect handshake – “the web to web”. Simply extend your hand so the “web” between your thumb and your index finger, reaches the other person’s “web”. This ensures that your handshake is always in full contact and firm. Then complement your handshake with a smile and glimmering eye contact to let your audience know you are grounded and ready.

I like to imagine the handshake as an electric shock. Even if you do not feel confident yet, starting an introduction with a successful handshake will help you trigger a confident demeanor. With the spark, carry this mindset and let it shine the rest of your conversation.

Trial and Error

Just because you do not have the confidence today, does not mean you will never gain it. Networking gets easier with practice and successes.

Start with observing yourself attentively; notice your every little action including posture, facial expression and tone of voice. Mentally record what you felt comfortable with and what you would like to improve on. Your handshake was weak? Adjust your grip with the next person. You fumbled on articulating your experiences? Practice and deliver at your next event. Had an awkward conversation gap? Research a list of conversation topics.

Never let yourself dwell on small hiccups through the night. Doing things that make you uncomfortable pushes your limits so you can keep improving. As you try new conversation techniques, you will develop new habits and confidence boosters. Soon enough, you won’t be reciting your elevator pitch because it will roll off your tongue naturally and authentically. Your improvements will translate your successes into feeling even more valuable.

Envision Your Future

Confidence is often built from comfort and certainty – when you are comfortable in your presence and certain about your experiences, confidence will come naturally. Try this trick: imagine yourself in your dream job and tell yourself, you are on your way there. When you have a clear vision in mind, your passion will shine through physically and emotionally – your eyes will gleam with excitement and you will be able to speak more passionately and eloquently. You will find yourself gaining insight from every conversation and asking the right questions to get you on your path. Ultimately,  you will open the door for your audience to find ways to relate to you and offer a supporting hand.

Remember, networking can be learned, but your style must be developed. One day you will become that person your younger self wanted to meet, so start thinking in your future shoes now and imagine your confidence today.

Stay tuned for other parts of The Networking Mindset! The next post will be about having a clear ask and delivering your networking message. 

Want to practice your networking skills? Attend CPABC’s Connect Networking Night where university and college students have the opportunity to network with CPA professionals and employers from a variety of industries across the lower mainland. Event details and registration here