10 Tips For Networking (And Not Hating It)
Unless you’re already pals with Richard Branson, the majority of us cringe at the thought of developing and maintaining professional connections. But does something so vital to our career development and potential have to be so painful?
It’s hard to image that anyone cool goes to any kind of networking event. Ever. When most of us think of networking we imagine two ends of a spectrum: at one end, Richard Branson on a yacht talking business with hyper-intelligent people laughing at a dad joke about pruning a hedge fund; at the other, a room full of awkwardly dressed young professionals with name tags on crooked. But it doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other.
In fact, if approached correctly, networking can be an enjoyable experience where you meet lots of great, like-minded new people. Here are a range of tools and approaches to networking online and IRL that will help you get on top of your networking game:
#1 Shift your perception of networking
Networking isn’t just about stodgy breakfast events or tepid cocktails in a room with strangers. Networking is all around us, and when you really think about it, it’s essentially just developing connections with people who are into the same stuff as you. Can having casual conversations about our jobs really be that bad?
Shift your understanding of what networking really is, because once you let go of old-hat stereotypes, you can allow yourselves to have fun meeting new people and exploring the three degrees of separation between us. This in turn, will be used to your personal advantage and professional growth.
#2 Go to IRL industry events
Scary? Yes. Rewarding? Totally. The idea of pretending you have your life in immaculate order can be daunting, but let the anticipation of the goodie bag carry you through and take comfort in the thought that everyone who’s there is probably as exhausted and anxious as you are.
#3 Take a pal and make an agreement
Take an industry pal and make a deal to meet some new people. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to leave with a whole professional BFF group, but be open to meeting, say, five new people. You don’t need deep connections either; it’s just as beneficial to form new connections that can be developed at events in the future or on upcoming projects.
It’s also not a race or competition. Making easy chit-chat can be as simple as standing next to someone while waiting for a drink, and using that wait time to introduce yourself. Keep it chill.
#4 Have your one-liner at the ready
Have a one-liner, but don’t make it about pitching yourself. It’s great to have one simple sentence that describes what you’re about, and it’s also great to know why you’re at that particular event. But if you can steer the the initial conversation away from work stuff and keep it casual and light, it will help the natural flow – you’ll get to the business stuff eventually. No idea how to do that? See below.
#5 Ask questions – then listen
Not sure of what to say at the event/party/yacht club? Ask questions instead, and then listen to what other people have to say. It’s strategic, you see: you can build a conversation around their response. All things going well, you’ll begin to shake off the feeling that you are on an episode of The Hills.
Once a couple of polite mandatory questions have been asked, the conversation can develop organically.
#6 Share your goals or new direction
Unless your network knows about which direction you want to be heading in, they can’t be expected to help you get there. Your one-liner will come in handy here. Once you begin to share your career goals or desires to further your career, you may be surprised at the reception you receive and the new people you connect with along the way. Your existing network might even help you form new connections in the area you’re moving toward.
#7 Respect, remember?
Throughout your career, whether you’re an Intern or a CEO, do as we’re told in Kindergarten and treat others as you’d like to be treated. When you’re out making casual chit-chat and asking questions to build fuller conversations, acting with respect towards everyone you meet ensures they take away a feeling from your meeting. This way, people remember and associate that positive feeling with you.
#8 Give a little to get a little
All the greatest protagonists have suave and swagger that makes it seem like they always get what they want. But if you look closely, folks like Harvey Specter or Kris Jenner always give a little to get a little.
If someone helps you out or invites you to another industry event, be sure to return the favour where you can. And if you can’t return the favour straight away, make a point of your intention to do so in the future.
#9 Back it up with an online #humblebrag (on the right platform)
You’ve met people, probably handed out some cards and had a good time. The next thing people do is look you up, so ensure you’re a LinkedIn all-star. Let people know about your achievements. If you are just starting out in your career, include everything. If you already have a couple of projects and titles to your name, flesh out the stuff you are most proud of and bullet point the rest.
Establish your profile and then build your online network by ‘Connecting’ (#buzzword) with people you have worked with. Note, this is not Facebook, it’s not a great idea to add people with the hopes of stalking them and comparing your life achievements with theirs. LinkedIn should be a reflection of your ‘best professional self’. Here is our guide to doing just that.
Also note: LinkedIn shares who views your profile.Use this tool wisely. This is strictly a no-alcohol zone. Proceed with caution.
#10 And forget about these classic no-nos
No to drinking too much. No to badmouthing anyone. And whatever you do, try to maintain some eye contact.