Networking used to be the bane of my existence. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of large social events or talking about myself, having to network felt like pulling a tooth without novocaine.
From setting up fundraisers to planning symposiums, I was introduced – okay more like thrown – into the wonderful world of networking with the jobs and internships I had in college.
For some, networking comes easily – a trait I envy so much – but for those like me, it doesn’t flow as naturally and that’s okay! The art of navigating it definitely takes practice. So help you feel more at ease, here are the top tips I’ve learned:
First Things First …
- Be approachable – If you walk into an event or meeting closed off (even unintentionally), it can come off as unapproachable. Ergo, that won’t usher in the best atmosphere for open dialogue.
- Keep an open mind – Not everyone will be easy to talk to and conversations might not flow as effortlessly as you’d hoped.
- Talk about things that are light and relatable – Whether you’re there to make a career-related contact or just get comfortable talking in a network setting; try keeping the conversation going by talking about “non-filler” topics. So instead of bringing up the exciting world of weather, try connecting your approach to something that relates to a component of the event. If all else fails, and you do end up discussing the weather, try focusing on other weather-related topics like favorite seasonal foods, movies, etc.
Have an elevator pitch
You never want to be caught off-guard so do your research before you get there. Equally important, is to have an elevator pitch. One that could knock the ball right out the park should include:
- What you can tell people about yourself
- What you do and why it’s important
- Mentioning your goals and how your background has helped to get you there
- How a networking relationship can be mutually beneficial
These questions should probably be answered in under 1 minute. That may seem like a short amount of time but remember, time is money. The point is to be brief, concise and persuasive all in the length of an elevator ride (unless it gets stuck, then talk away 😄)
Be an active listener
Ever met those people who respond yes or no to an in-depth or two-part question? What – about those head nodders who blindly agree to even the most ridiculous statements. Yeah, don’t be them.
Try to fully concentrate and respond to what’s being said, no matter how uninteresting – the topic might be. This will enable you to not only ask thought-provoking questions but it can also give you a chance to highlight your skills. Things like being a quick thinker or problem solver are admirable qualities ideal for future business dealings.
Get contact details
At the end of an event, you want contact details for the people you’ve interacted with. Whether you had great chatter on a buffet line, were part of a meet and greet, or hit it off with the person seated next to you — send a short follow up note. It doesn’t have to be long; a thoughtful blurb expressing your appreciation for their your time would suffice.
Be sure your tone matches your encounter. If it was lighthearted and easygoing, your note should be the same. More formal and rigid, adjust accordingly.
- Research and plan
- Prepare an elevator pitch
- Be yourself
- Go prepared
- Ask questions
- Get contact details
- Follow up
Only talk about yourself
Ever been around those people who only talk about themselves? Annoying right? That’s exactly what you don’t want to do. Take the time to listen to what the other person/people are saying so you don’t come off as a narcissist.
Talk to the same person the whole time
If you find yourself talking to the same person 15 mins in (even if the conversation is going well) try and switch it up! You know, work the room! The whole point of networking is to make connections. So expand that circle and mingle, mingle, mingle.
Be a phone addict
While your mingling, please, please, please, try not to check your phone. I know it’s super tempting and somewhat comforting but it can come off as rude . Plus it sends the message you’re uninterested in the other person
Pro tip: Put your phone on silent before you get to the event so you won’t be tempted by those notifications.
- Talk about yourself the whole time
- Speak to just one person
- Keep checking your phone