Your ability to network can either propel you to higher places in your career or get you left behind watching the cool kids from the loser’s table. If option one appeals to you then please keep reading. If option two appeals to you, then you should also keep reading.
Regardless of your work industry, you’re going to need friends, associates, colleagues, mentors, and job opportunities to further your success in your career. Which also means that you will have to create, nurture, and increase your network (both personal and professional).
To most the idea of networking my be overwhelming. Don’t stress though, networking is a skill that everyone has been doing since grade school. Or maybe even before that. I’ll admit that it was much easier to network in those days. It wasn’t like your career was riding on if you shared your snacks or not.
But once you entered college, the pressure to build your award-winning network before graduation was like carrying 10 elephants with you for 4-5 years. It was all about who you knew and every impression weighed heavily on your career in the future. At least that’s what I learned in college.
During college I attended my share of conferences and networking events. But I’ll always remember the event that brought me to create this networking guideline, which was the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication’s Networking Night that I went to during my senior year.
While observing the event, I found that many students were either having uncomfortable- forced conversations, bragging about their achievements, or completely avoiding the potential employers that filled the room. It looked more like a parody of a networking event than a job fair.
After processing what the heck was going on, I was inspired to aid people in becoming natural net-workers. Not just for them, but also for the poor company representatives that have to sit through these events.
In my opinion, everyone should be able to float through a room, holding meaningful conversations and leaving memorable impressions with ease. That’s a skill that I picked up in college that has substantially enhanced my life and want to share with you.
I used to be one of those people who hated networking events too. I was uncomfortable with the notion of smiling in stranger’s faces begging for an opportunity to be reciprocated for my efforts put forth. But, the more opportunities that I had to practice networking, the better I became at it.
I learned that networking was more about building mutually beneficial relationships than fulfilling my own career desires. Soon those dry forced conversations I used to have at networking events, became chats at the coffee shop with my new friends.
After 10 minutes of meeting someone, we would have talked, laughed, and shared stories like old comrades. I could tell you their whole life biography and give you their contact information once they walked away. My friends and colleagues would always wonder how I could work an event so easily and craved to harness this skill for themselves.
Therefore, I am passing these networking skills along to you in hopes that it will aid you on your career journey. I believe that being an effective net-worker plays an essential part in your success, no matter what career path you’re on. I also believe that everyone should be able to gain the success they desire.
So, I have put together a list of my best do’s and don’ts for networking success below. Following these guidelines will ease the stress of networking and make it second nature for you, just like it did for me.
- Do get the person talking about himself or herself.
- To build a relationship at a networking event, you have to be able to make a connection.
- Follow the representative’s story carefully to listen for something that you have in common.
- Insert that you both have a common interest to create a bond
- Once you found that common ground and made the person comfortable, you can fish for information that other people wouldn’t get about the opportunity or the representative.
- Do dress appropriate, compliment, smile, be polite, and FOLLOW UP. ALWAYS
- You always want to be warm and inviting when networking. This doesn’t mean that you have to be overly joyous, but simply content and pleasant.
- ALWAYS follow up with your new acquaintance at least a day after meeting. No one likes meeting someone they connect with just to never hear from that person again. Be consistent.
- Remember to be genuine, faking will only get you so far in the door and professionals can smell B.S. miles away.
- Do be confident and own what you say
- If you don’t believe what you are saying, then no one else will.
- Have authority when stating your name.
- Have eye contact with the person throughout the conversation.
- Show people you are not only confident in your talent/abilities, but you are confident in yourself.
- Don’t be interested in the opportunity; be interested in the person providing the opportunity.
- Focus on what you have to offer, remember that you are seeking to create mutually beneficial relationships.
- People commonly walk up to someone and ask, “What can you do for me?” But what they should really ask is, “How is your day going?”, “Can I help you with anything?”
- Show you’re interest in the person providing the opportunity. This allows you to build a relationship and become more than another nameless face with a resume.
- Don’t walk up to someone and babble off your accolades and shove your resume or business card in their hands.
- You don’t make friends by walking up to a person and recalling all of your achievements, do you? Then why should you treat networking any different?
- Networking is about building relationships. Key word here: building. You need to establish a foundation, before you start decorating the house in gold.
- Don’t mention what your goal is until asked.
- Everyone whom that successful person/ potential employer has talked to is looking for an opportunity. That is why you all are there in the first place. They need workers and you all need jobs.
- Be curious about the company and the representative, but never mention why. After showing interest without a motive, the representative will also become curious about you.
- Once the representative is curious about you, you modestly describe your skill set.
- By the time the conversation ends, he/she will ask for your information and offer you theirs in return.
- Don’t be afraid to interview the representative
- Prepare questions ahead of the event and ask as many questions as you can when the opportunity arises.
- Show interest in what the representative to stand out from the crowd.
- Ask him/her what they do for the company, how long they have been working for the company, what’s their typical day at work is like, what their job satisfaction is with the company, what’s their best work-related memory, etc.
When you follow these networking guidelines, people will remember you and want to keep you around. You will stand out from other candidates, because you were able to make connections that allowed you to set the foundation for your new relationships.
Please bare in mind, that it will take some practice before you become natural in your approach. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be glad that you kept trying.
I hope you tackle your next networking event or opportunity like a 300-pound linebacker at a football game. As always, if you have any valuable tips you want to add to the list, you found these guidelines helpful, or if you tried these guidelines, then please drop a comment below. I always love to hear from you. Geaux get them tiger!
Read. Laugh. Share. Enjoy!