Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How to Network the Hell Out of a Room

Scientific secrets to making meaningful connections that prove fruitful.

Networking: The social nightmare that even the most extroverted personalities seem to struggle with.

Let’s face it, nothing feels good about an interaction whose catalyst is trying to get someone to like you enough to help you find a job or do your current job better. But in today’s dismal job market, networking is more essential than ever before. According to The Wall Street Journal, if you’re not networking, you’re missing out on 80 percent of the jobs that are available. You know, the ones that don’t ever make it to the job boards, because they’re filled by someone who knows someone who would be the perfect fit.

Basically, you need to be that someone who knows people in order to land that next big gig–or resign yourself to applying for the 20 percent of the jobs that do get listed, and hope that you stand out against the  average of 118 other candidates who are vying for that same position.

Luckily, there are a few tactics you can use to make networking less miserable. Here are two powerful tricks for getting through your next networking event without hating every minute of it.

Put Yourself in a “Growth Mindset”

We’ve already established why you’re networking: Because you have to. In a study conducted by Johnson Cornell University, researchers found that there were two main motivations of networkers. “Promotion,” or the possibility that networking could help you learn and grow, or “prevention,” meaning that networking was a necessary evil, done out of the need to keep your contacts warm and create new ones in the event that you might need to look for new work. Not surprisingly, the study found that those who approached networking as an opportunity to learn more and grow had a more positive experience than those who were doing it out of necessity.

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck refers to this way of looking at opportunities as the “growth mindset,” which she says is the way that successful individuals view networking scenarios. “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening,” she explained to Harvard Business Review. “So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow. If you find yourself afraid of challenges, get yourself into a growth mindset and think about all of the growth potential in following this opportunity, even if it’s out of your comfort zone.”

Bottom line: Look at your next networking opportunity as a place to learn and grow, instead of a necessary means of forging connections in case you get canned next week.

Make the Connection Mutually Beneficial

Building new relationships takes time and effort. So it’s no surprise that if you’re creating a relationship that doesn’t feel meaningful–like when you’re schmoozing the HR manager of your dream company at a job fair–the task seems arduous rather than enjoyable. A study conducted by the Rotman School of Management found that some of the strongest professional relationships are built when both parties can help each other in some capacity. In fact, task-related networks, where two people are forming a relationship to work together on a given problem resulted in a higher activation of positive emotions than those that were just one sided.

Instead of approaching a potential connection and thinking about everything that person can possibly do for you, you’ve got a higher margin for success if you leverage how this relationship could be beneficial to you both. For example, say the conversation you’re having with a recruiter turns to the lackluster breakfast being served. She starts chatting with you about how difficult it is to find a caterer for breakfast meetings that offer more than the typical run-of-the-mill staples. You tell the recruiter about your go-to caterer for client meetings, who always goes above and beyond and delivers city wide. The two of you swap emails, and you send along the caterer’s information. You’ll feel good about being able to help this person out instead of just making small talk and passing along your resume, and you’ll also stand out against the other connections the recruiter made that day.

Not only will your networking efforts be less miserable if you’re able to shift your mindset and hone in on creating relationships that are symbiotic, you’ll also see more fruits from your labor. Talk about a win-win.