When I was younger, I hated networking because I thought it was superficial and I do not thrive off of superficial connections. Nor do I want someone speaking to me based off of what I can do for them. Yet, many mentors and other professionals would constantly reiterate how important networking was and will be in the future. So, if I was going to network as they say, I at least wanted to do it my way. You can make it your way, as well.
Networking isn’t just meeting people to meet people. It is to achieve goals. make connections, and grow personally and professionally.
Networking can be anywhere. Most people think of socials as the ultimate networking place. However, anytime you connect with someone that person could potentially become a part of your network. So, remember networking is to build your network of knowledge and resources.
When you enter any space where you will be networking or before you might have the opportunity to network, set your mindset. Concentrate on the unique qualities and experiences you bring to the table. For example, you may be the president of an organization at your school or you may lead a project at work. Think about the requirements and characteristics that you hold that helped you to get that position. Was it your passion or your organization skills? Whatever the case, commend yourself for your accomplishment before entering a situation where you might network, so that you remember the great things about yourself and increase your confidence.
To get in the right mindset you should prepare a 30 second elevator speech about your future goals. Doing so will make you less anxious about interacting with others in a social setting. Being able to articulate your goals is a great way to connect with others. In the same way, others may have goals for which you can offer assistance or tips.
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In conversations, find something in common with people. Ask yourself, “What information does this person have that I genuinely want to learn more about?,” “In what ways could I genuinely assist this person if they have a need?” If you find nothing on that level, move on. Using conversations to learn more about people or things can be fun and informational. It is also better than just networking with people based on what they can do for you.
Superficial connections and small talk conversations benefit no one. If the connection is not genuine to the point that I am interested in the conversation and want to learn something new or offer my assistance, I move on. So, I do not recommend situations where you have to small talk or force a conversation. That’s awkward and often not worth it.
Don’t forget the crucial after step.!After the initial meeting or connection, nurture the relationship. You can do this by inviting them for coffee or lunch, asking questions about their area of expertise, or offering your assistance if you can help them in any way. Going out for coffee or lunch will allow you the opportunity to discuss topics in depth that were of interest to you in the initial conversation. For example, if their area of expertise is financial planning, you can ask them questions about what you can do to get on track with your finances.
Keep in mind, you do not want to have a one-way relationship where the other person is constantly offering you advice and there is nothing you can offer them. Keeping with the example of a financial planner, maybe you could offer referrals in exchange for their help. This is a great way to grow relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Networking can open you up to a plethora of opportunities especially early on in your career. Always be confident, listen, and follow up! Tell me about your networking experiences below!