Finding an ideal opportunity is tough. It’s part of why I am motivated to search and introduce career-defining roles to others. However, as a recruiter, no matter how much I prepare and encourage my candidates –  I can’t do all the work.

In the past year that I have been with TwentyPine, I have attended several events like the NY User Group meetings, the Salesforce World Tour, and more recently I began attending events for professionals in sales and staffing like myself.  Over time, I have come to understand the enormous value that putting yourself out there and networking can have.

You just never know who you are going to meet.

Now, I encourage the professionals I work with that even if I do not have opportunities for them, they can go out and create their own. Simply by putting themselves out there and networking.

Networking and speaking with like-minded professionals, or people in similar job functions as yourself can help expand your skill set, and learn other ways of approaching your daily responsibilities. It can give you a friend to vent to about similar challenges, or a mentor to learn from. Even if you network with someone doing something completely different, you will take something away from that conversation.

Networking can also provide great opportunities to build relationships that may influence your career. You never know if the person you are talking to will need your skillset in 2 years, or maybe that person will change their own career, start their own company and want someone like you to come onboard.

NBA players know a lot about capitalizing on opportunities – just think about Steph Curry, releasing the ball at .4 seconds per shot. He is on his way to becoming one of the best, if not the best, prolific shooters of all time. Curry, along with some of the greatest basketball players and minds in history, have shared some great wisdom that can be taken off the hardwood and into the real world. Here are a few that I felt could be great sources of inspiration when you’re ready to seize that moment at your next networking event:

Be calm.

“I’ve never been afraid of big moments. I get butterflies…I get nervous and anxious, but I think those are all good signs that I’m ready for the moment.”– Stephen Curry

Nervous to talk to that CEO across the room?

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and remember that the best relationships are built on casual conversations. You’re at the event to build your career and network and you won’t achieve that by standing by the finger sandwiches or staring at your phone. There’s no reason to place any pressure on yourself, so have fun with it and don’t overthink it.

Be Confident.

“Confidence is what happens when you’ve done the hard work that entitles you to succeed.” –Pat Summitt

Confidence is key – make a point of standing tall. But also make yourself approachable – sometimes it is easier when another person comes over to you to start a conversation so don’t cross your arms, or position yourself away from everyone.

If you are speaking with a group of people, don’t be afraid to chime in. Speak with conviction and pride in the work you do, the company you represent, and the knowledge you have.

Have an objective.

“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”– Michael Jordan

Have a goal in mind when you register or walk into an event. What do you want to take away from attending this event? It could be that you are open to opportunities so you want to meet a certain number of people who are hiring, or, maybe you are going to learn something about Salesforce Lightning that you don’t know.

Recently, I went to my first networking event alone. I promised myself I wouldn’t leave without getting three business cards. I ended up with six, and that was because having that objective made me realize I was overthinking everything. Having a goal in mind is a great way to give yourself that initial boost of confidence!

Step outside your comfort zone.

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

– John Wooden

Going to networking events is out of my comfort zone as it is, but they can provide so much for my career. The only thing worse than not going to any at all is going and not putting myself out there and speaking with the incredible talent in the room.

Say, you are at an event with an amazing speaker- someone you look up to, or a well-known name in your industry. Go shake their hand after, have questions to ask them, or even just thank them and tell them what you learned. You never know where the conversation may lead. 

Also, don’t shy away from taking chances after the event is over. Connecting with the people you met on LinkedIn, or reach out to someone to grab a coffee that week. Leverage the confidence and conversations you had at the event to continue having more.

So, whether it be on LinkedIn, at this years Dreamforce, or a local networking happy hour – shoot your shot. Make opportunities, build professional relationships, and expand your network outside of the people you interact with in the office every day.