To those unfamiliar with networking, it can be a scary thing to think about at first. Questions surrounding who, where, how, and when should I network come into play. Many times, you will find yourself in networking situations and realize the only difference from a normal conversation is the discussion of career-related topics. (And then you’ll realize too that networking isn’t that bad).
Here are some tips for a better networking experience:
Things to be mindful of:
- Smile at people. This will increase your approachability and make people want to talk to you.
- Realize that opportunities for networking are everywhere and that anyone can be a potential contact. You can eventually ask anyone what their name is and where they work.
- Don’t apologize for asking for the occasional help or starting a new conversation with someone new.
- Don’t change who you are when networking, just be yourself. Being genuine goes a long way.
- Always have business cards ready. This will help people remember who you are and they will have a way to contact you.
- Be ready to help others and offer your assistance. This way they will be more willing to help you in the future. Networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships that grow over time.
- Your inner network may know someone you can contact. Talk to friends, family, and teachers to see if they know someone in the field you are interested in to follow up with.
- Quickly follow up on referrals from people you meet.
- Call people you meet who can be beneficial to your career and those you said you would assist in some way.
- Not all networking groups are equal. Take note of the purpose of these groups and if you think they are helpful or credible. Use this time to decide if you would like to continue with them. They usually won’t make you sign up the first time you attend an event or meeting.
- Be careful not to assume that the person you are talking to remembers you or has an established career. Not everyone at a networking event will have a job and most people are a bit forgetful when it comes to names.
What to talk about:
- Ask a lot of open-ended questions and truly listen. People love to talk about themselves and they will feel like you had a great conversation even if you didn’t say as much as they did.
- Share your personal story. Prepare a short and interesting story about who you are, your skills, and what you do for a living or what you want to do. Also, include why you want to get into this particular field and your past work experience. Try writing it out and fine-tuning it so people will want to learn more about you. Hopefully, they will share your story, which will lead to a job. Your story will make you memorable.
- Talk about things you are passionate about. People light up when they are discussing something of great interest and it is contagious.
- Make sure you are able to clearly explain what you do in your position and why. You must be able to talk about what sets you apart and your skills.
- Be prepared with answers on how people can help you if they ask and what you are looking for.