Lets face it, Networking isn’t one of those things most of us look up to or enjoy doing. It can be quite awkward, time consuming and definitely much more less appealing than catching up on the latest episode of Shameless.
However, as unappealing as it is, Networking is definitely an essential part in advancing in one’s career. The truth is, You can never underestimate the importance of relationships and as my mentor always says “You will most likely get a job through who you know rather than through your education or experience”. To a certain extent I believe this.
Networking is simply connecting with people you might not otherwise have met in your daily routine in a similar field or field of interest and being vocal about your interests and goals.
To highlight why networking is important, I’ll share with you a personal story.
A few months ago I applied for a job in what I like to call “My dream company”. After a couple of interviews, I was fortunate enough to go through to the last round. However, as my luck ran out, they hired an internal candidate. Fortunately, I made a good impression on the interviewer that she passed my details down to a colleague of hers who is in a higher position and has a better overview of openings within the company.
2 weeks later I received a contact request from this colleague with a better overview of future openings within my “Dream Company”. She was basically just inviting me for a chat and coffee just to get acquainted. Of course I accepted and it was a date.
I introduced myself and shared my career ambitions and dreams. It was pretty informal and a good chance for me to get to know someone inside the company and also about the company in general. We had such a great chat that she said I reminded her of herself when she was still young and because of that she was going to keep me on speed dial in case an opportunity pops up.
True to her word, a few weeks later I received a call from the recruiter within “My dream company” informing me of a vacancy that is NOT ADVERTISED online and asking if I was interested.
To cut the long story short, It turned out not to be a perfect match for me and I picked an offer from a different company.
The moral of the story however is, If I had not developed relationships within “My dream company”, I would not have known about these openings that are not advertised.
Over the years, I’ve actually developed an approach for making the most of networking. I hope my tips will help you to enter these encounters with your best foot forward:
1. Have a Goal
Networking should always be done with a goal in mind. It’s not about how many people you talk to or how many business cards you collect. If you don’t have an end goal in mind you will end up forcing yourself to approach anyone. Know what you want and strategically talk to people who can lead you there. Quality over Quantity.
2. Be Genuine
One of the reasons why I dread networking events is the meaningless and awkward conversations you end up in. Win people over with your enthusiasm for whatever it is that drives you. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about you. Talking about what you enjoy is often contagious too. Ask them questions about their career, hobbies and dreams. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a memorable two-way conversation.
3. Think People Not Positions
For those of us early in our careers, this is a great time to start networking. It’s really not easy to break into the inner circle of 50 or 60-year-old executives but it’s a lot easier to build that equity earlier.
Think about who in your network seems to be going places and is interesting and make a connection. They might not end up being in a position of influence but at least you have a relationship.
It’s a simple – but an often overlooked – rule of engagement. By smiling, you’ll put your nervous self at ease, and you’ll also come across as warm and inviting to others. Remember to smile before you enter the room, or before you start your next conversation. And if you’re really dreading the event? Check the negative attitude at the door.
5. Always Follow-Up
The Golden rule. Networking is where the conversation begins not ends. If you’ve had a great conversation with someone and have exchanged contact details, send him/her a thank you note and pick up the conversation from where you left of by mentioning something specific that you enjoyed about the interaction.
6. Get Better at the Game
Last but not least, Networking requires skill and practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become.
If you have more tips, please feel free to share in the comments.