Networking is more and more important as the career world shifts and changes. There are more chances than ever for us to network, make contacts, and increase our potential.
But networking objectively is not fun. For 90% of us, it’s awkward, uncomfortable, and honestly… who really enjoys selling themselves or their company for 8 hours a day at a convention, or spending an evening going to dinner with strangers doing it? You could be enjoying yourself.
If you’re awful at networking, or just plain hate it, we can help. You may never love networking, but you don’t have to dread it. Or be so awful at it that it works against you!
This is so important, and so hard to do! If you come across as fake, awkward, or uncomfortable, people are going to read that from your speech and body language.
So how can you come off as genuine?
Ask real questions, and listen to their answers – and dig deeper. “Oh, you work at X? That’s interesting, I heard this fact about them, is that true?” The goal is to build real, genuine connections with the other person, not just be nice.
Treat them like a potential friend and learn about their life.
Don’t Push Your Sale Too Hard
When you’re networking, you always have an agenda. You want to sell something, be it your company, your product, or just yourself. I get that! But don’t push your sale too hard.
You should be going into conversations and events as yourself, the person. Not the salesman. Talk about yourself, your interests, and your company. But don’t cram a sales pitch down someone’s throat.
No one wants to listen to that, for one. And another, you’re just going to turn people off with your aggressive tactics.
If you’re very worried, do some homework. What connections make the most sense to make? Who in the room do you want to talk to, and how can you get there? Focus on talking to these people and getting to know them, and you’ll be golden.
Try to Help Someone Else
This seems counterintuitive, right? You’re there to help yourself, not someone else!
But helping people you don’t know very well forges a quick bond that would otherwise not exist, and studies have shown that it’s the best way to make friends. This easily transitions over to a networking situation for work!
Just the statement “How can I help with that?” or “How can I help you?” can go a long way to making lasting connections. People will remember your willingness to lend a hand, and be more willing to lend you one, too!
Pay Attention to Small Details
This is the long game, here. There’s a good chance you’re not going to come away from your first networking event completely successful, and that’s totally okay! But you need to be paying attention to the small details now, so in the future, you can impress someone.
What does this mean?
Say person Y mentions something about their favorite sports team at event A. When you go to event D, you run into that person. Make a conversation about their team, the team’s standings, or ask them if they caught the most recent game.
People like someone who remembers details about them and this is going to make your connection seem more personal than it may otherwise. People want to help friends, and if they see you as a friend, they’re going to want to help you, too.
The more you go to networking events, talk to people, and put yourself out there, the easier it is going to be. You’re going to see the same few faces at every event, and soon think of these people as work friends. At some point, you may even look forward to an event because of this!
Don’t get discouraged if the first time is hard. Or the third. Each time you go, it will be a little bit easier for you, and the payoff for being good at networking? Huge!