Photo by Akson on Unsplash

3 Things College Graduates Need To Do To Create Instant Connections.

“Learn how to talk to people.”

“You need to put yourself out there.”

“Find common ground.”

I could go on for weeks. Every-time the topic of networking is being discussed, these phrases seem to be commonplace.

What do the masses mean when they say, “put yourself out there?” A bonus tip to graduate students who want to learn how to optimize their networking skills — don’t listen to people who say things because they sound good.

You would not be wrong to say that networking involves exchanging information with the hope to build professional contacts.

In other words, networking is contrived. It is synthetic, and mostly, it is a game. With every game, there are rules and sometimes cheat codes.

Do you want to win this game? You probably do because you clicked on this article. Well, I have to break some news to you. In order to win this game, you must play by the rules.

I am going to go over a few things that I know would sharpen your networking skills.

“Instead of better glasses, your network gives you better eyes.” — Ronald Burt

Disclaimer: If you are expecting to read this article and magically develop the networking acumen — I suggest you stop here. It is important to know that the tips I am about to share need practice to perfect.

Business people on a foundational level are very similar. They value their time, they are passionate, and they believe in first impressions.

Unlike the dating world, in business, the rules of first impressions are simpler. There are three things you need to do in ALL your networking meetings to nail a good first impression.

It fundamental to get into securing a good first impression before I dive into the things you need to know. Stay with me.

Smile.

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.” — Joseph Addison

I know, you think this is fluff. But wait for it.

Studies indicate that smiling makes you seem courteous, more likable, and competent. Emphasis on the word competent.

Photo by Aatik Tasneem on Unsplash

Smiling is great, but that impression of competence is more significant. While networking, you always want to exude competence. Anything that mildly accentuates competence must be applied.

Psychology studies indicates that it takes 40 milliseconds for humans to make judgments. That is quicker than you can blink your eyelids.

Think about that for a minute. Before you could even blink, judgment has already been passed. I don’t mean to scare you, but that’s crappy.

A smile can help to manipulate that impression and plant seeds of competence in the eyes of the people you communicate with.

Eye Contact.

“Meaningful eye contact has the power to transcend time and space to connect us with others and can be one of the most gracious and important ways to demonstrate attention and respect.” — Susan C. Young

Eye contact is a popular topic of discussion. Proverbs and rumors about eye contact spread like wildfire.

“Eye contact reveals the inner depths of your soul.”

“Eye contact is an indication of confidence.”

“Eye contact that lasts longer than six seconds indicates a sexual desire.”

Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

All this sounds great and mildly awkward, but let’s focus on networking. Making eye contact means a variety of things in the business world.

Eye contact makes you memorable, it makes you more self-aware, and it makes you look interested. Eye contact is an indication that you are listening and while networking, your listening must be circumspect.

Don’t allow any information to fall through the cracks of your brain. All the crumbs you pick up at networking events can become a meal.

Firm Handshakes.

A firm, hearty handshake gives a good first impression, and you’ll never be forgiven if you don’t live up to it. — P. J. O’Rourke.

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

This is really not the best time to talk about shaking hands. With a world pandemic at large, a handshake would seem very high-stakes. However, I would still discuss the pros of a firm handshake.

A good handshake is one that strikes a balance between a forceful grip and a limp noodle.

A weak handshake that only grips the fingers gives a negative impression and, quite frankly, creates awkwardness. You don’t want to seem dull, or like you lack confidence.

Handshakes create connections between people. While I worked in retail, I remember shaking a woman’s hand before she vacated the store. Two weeks later, she needed to buy her husband a gift. She specifically requested that I assist her. During our conversation, she let me know that my handshake was “impactful”.

I have never heard a handshake being described that way. Shake with more effort (when it is safe to do so) and see how that changes people’s perception of you.

These very simple steps are needed for that initial impression. I would have loved to go straight into “3 things college students need to know about marketing,” but it is crucial to building a first impression before you genuinely start “networking.”

Let’s get into the three things all college graduates must know about networking.

Networking Is Not Opportunistic.

Let me debunk this idea that you walk out of a networking event with a job — it is just untrue. I am not discounting the possibility that it could happen. However, it doesn’t happen to the people who go around asking to be employed.

“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” — Unknown.

The purpose of networking is to build relationships that could possibly be of good use to us in the future. We must understand the code of conduct and not make people feel used.

Photo by Siavash Ghanbari on Unsplash

“Are you hiring?”

“Can you get me a job?”

Erase these colloquial’s immediately.

Apart from sounding opportunistic and classless, you destroy your own self-image like nails to a chalkboard.

Networking is about turning cold leads into warm leads. Once you have established a relationship, you can then begin to make inquiries on possible opportunities to work with said person.

Building relationships involve giving consistently, receiving occasionally. I know you’re wondering, what does this even mean?

Well, it means that when stepping into a professional relationship, you must ensure that the relationship is mutually beneficial. It means you are going to get something from the relationship. The mistake would be to focus on what you can receive and not what you can offer.

Why would someone give you value if they don’t see value in you? Would you plant seeds on concrete floors? NO. Why? Because you know that the concrete floors don’t have the nutrients (value) needed to help the seeds grow. Business people would not waste their time pouring into a bucket with holes. Prove that you have value that can be built upon.

Let me give you something practical. After an engagement with a potential contact, ask them to go out for coffee — your treat. Paying for the coffee is not what you are giving to the potential contact, but the gesture is. The mere insinuation that you value them enough to spend time with them is enough.

Focus on giving and not receiving.

Networking Is Not Natural.

Just like any skill out there, you must work at it to develop it. Yes, I agree that there are people who have the gift of gab, there are people who are naturally likable, and maybe some people who appear to have it all in this enigmatic world of networking. The truth is that nobody does. You must learn the rules of the game and play accordingly.

“Pulling a good network together takes effort, sincerity and time.” — Alan Collins.

Let me share some skills you must research and work on to enhance your marketing knack.

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Communication: Great communication differentiates the skillful from the inept. It is the hallmark of a great person. I don’t care if you graduated magna cum laude or you got a gold star from every teacher in your class. You need to know today that communication is paramount. Knowledge is useless when its not applied or conveyed.

Emailing: Emailing is the dominant medium of communication in the business world. With the advent of social media and shorthanded texting — the skill of writing emails has become obscure. But the value of a well-written email cannot be replaced. Emailing is a skill that can garner more robust networks.

Leveraging Leads: I have said and would continue to say that networking is a game. To win, you must obey the rules. While networking, you must learn how to identify and leverage good leads. Good leads that would yield opportunity.

Networking Is Present Participle.

Networking does not and should not end after the event. Also, networking should not be confined to just networking events. Networking should be a lifestyle choice.

The same way following up is integral to the success of a salesperson — it is the same way it is necessary to the success of networking.

“Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling up your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain.” — Michelle Moore.

I will be very practical here and I will also show you some examples of how I followed up with customers while I was still a salesperson.

Have you ever heard that rule that says a guy should only call a woman three days after a first date? Well, unfortunately, that would not work here.

Follow up within 24 hours! This is crucial. It could be with a call or a text. The tone of your text or call should be gratitude. One useful tip is to recall some of the events that occurred at the meeting and how they made you feel.

It is important to show that you are a great listener and the time you spent talking was meaningful.

Here is an example of how I put this principle into practice.

Here is a customer who bought a tuxedo from me. We hit it off as I approached him with a blazer from Tiger of Sweden that I thought would look good on him. He was immediately impressed that I knew his size without conferring with him first(I showed him I had value to give in the way of my professional opinion.).

We immediately began to converse about the kind of work he does. I took an interest in his business, ask reasonable questions, and we discussed a variety of things.

He told me he had an event to attend and he needed a black tux. We headed to the changing room and created a classy outfit. He introduced me to his family and left the store.

On the morning of the next day, within 24 hours of our meeting, I sent him the text above.

A relationship was built and it only kept growing.

Relationships are continuous and must be persistently worked on.

Relationships are present participle.

Conclusion.

It is crucial to set up systems that would aid the growth of your network. Understand that skill must be built or they would die. Networking has its quirks and features. Hence, it is important to study it and work it out. As you finish reading, my hope is that you embark on a journey of networking that absolutely changes your life.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store