No matter who you are or what you do, you’ll probably have to do a bit of networking at some point. This is super true if you’re at a point in your life when you’re looking for opportunities — a new job, a new client, or a new professional connection. Unfortunately, networking can be intimidating & can often make you feel a little bit awkward (or a lot).
You’ve probably seen or heard this phrase before, usually written in a swirly font over a stock photo of a landscape or a small animal interacting with a flower. There’s a good reason for it — it’s true. Authenticity is key when meeting anyone. Forcing yourself to act completely different for the sake of impressing another person is going to make you & your audience uncomfortable & less receptive to your dynamite pitch/qualifications/message. People respond to authenticity.
Before the next time you go anywhere, figure out what you want out of a potential encounter & take a few minutes to write it down. This is your “elevator pitch,” or the 15-30 second summary of who you are, your goals & how you plan to achieve them — the time it takes to go up an elevator. You don’t have to recite it to every single person you meet, but it’s good to have in the back of your brain in case someone throws a question at you when you least expect it.
Ask questions, take names.
When you embark on a networking adventure, you’re bound to meet many new people. The best way to connect with them is to ask questions. Ask them about their work & really take the time to listen & find out what’s important to them. Make sure to remember at least one important detail about them & make a note, either on paper or in their contact info on your phone or email address book. Keeping track of all of these names, jobs & details is only going to only get more difficult if you don’t stay organized, so make sure to find a system that works for you & stick with it.
Networking can happen anywhere, at any time.
Networking is just a fancy way of saying “meet people & start a relationship.” You never know who you’ll run into out in the wild — it could be a grocery store, a luncheon, a restaurant. In fact, the majority of our clients we met out in the wild. Don’t obsess over finding those connections, but keep that thought in your head when you’re deciding what to where & how to conduct yourself in certain places. And when that spur-of-the-moment conversation pops up, don’t be afraid to talk about your goals or ask for a follow-up meeting.
There is no “right” way to do it.
This. This is the most important aspect of networking, no matter how awkward you are. Be your most genuine self & take a real interest in the people you meet. There’s no right way to network because people communicate in different ways. Even an uncomfortable silence can be an opportunity to ask a question and show your willingness to adapt to any situation. Work on honing your own communications skills, & when opportunities arise, take them — even if you’re a little awkward. Think of networking as a blind date. The more anxious you are about it, the more uncomfortable and miserable you'll be. If you focus on the present & treat people like humans, you'd be surprised at how many opportunities will come your way.
Images from Pixabay.com