I’ve been lucky enough to be employed since I was 15 years old. With the recent unemployment rate reaching over 9% in the United States, networking is one of the best ways to position yourself for opportunities that may not be right in front of you. For many people (read: introverts), the very idea of going out and talking with people they know only a little bit, or—hold you hats—people they’ve never met, is absolutely dreadful.
For me, it’s always been something I enjoy and have been asked by many colleagues over the years, how it is that I take such delight in going to places I’ve never been, talking to people I’ve never (or barely) met. For them, I have created the following tips based on effective communication skills that go beyond LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Simply stated, networking is building and maintaining relationships with other people to assist them and you to achieve something more together than either can alone. Networking increases your opportunities and chances of being at the right place at the right time. It also increases your chances of being seen and remembered. So here are my 4 Tips to Demystify the Dread of Networking:
1. Prepare and plan—ask yourself the following questions:
- Who do you want to meet and why do you want to meet them?
- What’s in it for them?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What impression do you want to leave?
- Make a list of who is your network. Who do you know? If you don’t know where to start, there is a great activity on page 39 in Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book, “The Tipping Point.”
2. Introduce yourself and be ready to engage with your 30 second elevator speech:
- Be confident and approachable
- At the appropriate moment, give your name and offer a few choice words about who you are
- In the US, it is often appropriate to shake hands
- Ask a question that’s relevant to them and their world
3. Have the conversation and remember that the best conversationalist is the best listener:Ask questions about them and their interests (not your agenda)
- Think positively about the other person—believe it or not, this matters
- Always find a way to help them, and end the conversations with, “Is there anything I can I do to help?”
- Offer your business card as a way to get their contact information
- Remember their name
4. Follow up and follow through on any commitments you made—but don’t overdo it:
- Send a quick email referencing something from your conversation
- Suggest a way you might be able to help them through an article you’ve read, someone you can introduce them to or simply offering support yourself
- Plan a next call if the connection seems authentic and right for both of you
Let’s face it: people are busy, so in your conversations be exciting, interested and helpful. From there, they have every reason in the world to want to talk to you again when an opportunity arises where you can help them or they can help you!
For another good read on networking, see “10 People You Must Have in Your Network,” at http://www.careerealism.com/top-10-people-you-must-have-in-your-network/