Networking is one of the best ways to advance your career. In my experience, it can make the difference between “good” and “great”. Yet, for many people, networking is a terrifying experience. Common objections include:
- I do not like to make “small talk.”
- I can’t possibly introduce myself to strangers.
- Why would some famous person want to talk to me?
- I hate selling.
If that sounds like you, it is time to reframe the experience of networking. My favorite definition of networking is connecting with another person so that the two of you can share and be relevant to each other.
With that concept in mind, here is how you can begin to networking effectively and effortlessly.
Before you attend any networking event, it helps to do your homework!
Know who is sponsoring the event and who is going to be there.
Decide on your goal. One goal is to target specific people whom you want to meet. Another goal might be to connect with a specific number of new people or to learn specific information.
Come with a positive attitude. By thinking about networking in terms of connecting and sharing and helping other people rather than selling, this will go a long way to dispelling your fears.
Start with someone safe, perhaps a friend or someone whom you have previously met.
Tell the person what impact they are having on you. Many famous people enjoy hearing from their admirers. The more specific you can be about what you admire about this person, the more likely you are to continue the conversation.
Find areas of common interest, ask questions, listen and show genuine interest in that person.
If you are not connecting, shake hands and move on to someone else. You are not going to connect with every person you meet. In fact, some people are simply not receptive to networking. Remember that for such people, it is not about you so you need not take it personally if they do not want to speak to you!
Provide information and/or share contacts that could be interesting, relevant or useful to the person whom you are speaking with. If you feel that you have made a nice connection and you see an opening, tell the person something about yourself. It helps to have your Elevator Speech ready.
Above all, be authentic and be yourself!
4. Be Relevant
Once you have made a connection with someone whom you would like to stay in touch with, ask the person if you can contact him or her again.
Have a business card handy with your name, title and contact information.
Be sure to follow-up with everyone whom you made a connection with.
Send out written thank-you notes to everyone who helps you.
Keep the person informed about what you are doing.
And what if your efforts fall flat?
Move on. Figure out what part of your approach did not work and try something new the next time. Networking takes practice so the more you do it, the better you will get!
I would be delighted if you should wish to reprint this article (for free) in your newsletters, blogs, websites, and message boards. Please include the following attribution:
Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC is a professional life coach and lawyer, Coordinator of Career Strategies and Lecturer at the Yale School of Music and the founder and President of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, which is dedicated to helping musicians, lawyers and creative professionals take charge of their lives and experience authentic success. In addition to her work at YSM and her individual coaching practice, Astrid presents workshops at leading conservatories and law firms on topics including Career Planning, Goal-Setting, Time Management, Dynamic Communication, Conflict Management and Personal Branding and Networking. She is the author of numerous articles on the various aspects of how to achieve and live authentic success.