How To Network: The Dos And Don’ts
Networking. Everyone’s favourite word. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that networking can have a huge effect on your life and the opportunities that cross your path. Whether you’re a young working professional or still studying, networking allows you to find people who can connect you with jobs and advice, and who are passionate about the same things you care about (these are generally good people to surround yourself with).
But how do you actually network without coming across as a shallow brown-noser? We’ve gathered a few tips and tricks to guide you on your schmoozing journey…
Do: Have an elevator pitch prepared.
Whether it’s about yourself, your company, your course or even your goals it pays to have an idea of yourself in a nutshell. Knowing what you have to offer and what you’re looking for opens the conversation up to how you and your new friend could help each other. This also saves you talking about the weather.
Do: Start now, not when you need connections.
No one likes feeling used, especially by someone they don’t really know. Not only does relationship building take time, but asking for something straight off the bat isn’t always the best move. Start cultivating your networks as early as possible, and you’ll be surprised how many people you know when it comes time for your next career move or referral.
Do: Have interesting things to talk about.
Going to an industry event? Research the field. Going to a company event? Research the organisation. Networking can be stressful enough without feeling like you’re out of your depth talking to people. Knowing as much as you can about the event and the context it sits in will ensure you don’t encounter any awkward silences.
Do: Think about body language.
Ever heard of power posing? A technique termed by psychologist Amy Cuddy has shown that standing in a position of confidence (think open body language) can trick your mind into feeling fearless. Tada! Networking no longer has to be a stressful event: just duck to the bathroom, pull a superman pose for a couple of minutes and let psychology do the rest.
Do: Follow up with people.
It’s not just about making connections but maintaining them too. Send a email, LinkedIn request or Facebook friend request (if appropriate) the following day to continue your conversations and plan your next meet up.
Do: Expect to network outside networking events.
Things don’t happen quite how you expect them to, especially when it comes to piecing together your network. That person you sit next to on the train, or a customer at your part-time job may turn out to be a valuable contact to have. Another reason why it’s important to have your elevator pitch prepared!
Don’t: Hang around the food, or the door.
Find the other stragglers and go talk to them, or take a friend with you to the event. Food and doors aren’t going to give you you next big opportunity, so don’t assume just because you showed up that your job is done. Get out there and mingle!
Don’t: Be shy to ask for introductions.
Know someone that knows someone? Use it to your advantage and get them to introduce you. Not only is it easier than thinking up your own opening line, but you will also get a sidekick to stay and navigate the chat with you too.
Don’t: Feel the need to talk to everyone.
You may not always have the time or the patience to talk to every single person. Think about the people you’d most like to connect with, use your research to scope out the keys players in the room, and head in their direction.
Don’t: Be afraid to ask questions.
Everyone was young once, therefore everyone has asked a stupid question at some point in their lives. Don’t be afraid to voice up, especially if it’s something you’re genuinely curious about. Avoid asking things that could be found out with a simple Google search and you’ll be away laughing.
Don’t: Zone out.
Ever found yourself in la-la land halfway through a conversation? Yep — we’ve all been there. Try your best not to do this when you’re making a new friend. Not only is it rude as heck but you could be caught off guard if they ask you a question afterwards. Check out our sneaky tips to stay awake here.
Don’t: Stick to your industry.
Some of the best ideas and thinking can come from discussions completely outside your field. Don’t feel like you have to stay caged in your industry’s schedule of events to be qualified enough to attend. Get out there and learn something new! As long as you do some research about the context and be upfront about why you’re there, you’re bound to make a good impression.