The art of networking is only second to speaking in public when it comes to the level of dread this strikes in people. Networking is usually associated with attending conferences and events where you don’t know anyone, roaming a room full of people, clutching a drink desperately wanting out of the room. Are you cringing already? If so, you are not alone on that one.
Here is the good news though, that does not have to be your experience. It can actually be quite pleasant if you play your cards right. Below, we share 5 tips that will make networking enjoyable, instead of intimidating.
Tip #1: To thine own self, be true:
That’s right, the first tip is be true to yourself. That type of networking where you roam a room full of people, clutching your drink as a lifeline, does not suit everyone. Actually, it does not suit most people. When you get to a place where you can admit that truth, then you are ready for tip #2.
Tip #2: Find what suits you:
For networking to be effective, you have to enjoy it, and not feel like a fish out of water. If trying to strike conversations with strangers in a room full of them is not your thing, try what we call the 1-2-1 networking.
This is more focused, comfortable and effective. You could ask a mutual acquaintance to connect you with the person you want to get know, and then invite them for a coffee or dinner. This works as you can have an uninterrupted fulfilling discussion for a half hour, or even one hour if things go well.
Tip #3: Utilise the strength in numbers:
If you don’t mind attending large networking events, but feel uncomfortable when it comes to the actual networking, then consider bringing a friend or colleague along. They are your safety net; they keep you occupied while you work up the courage to mingle and speak to others, as well as if, and when, your courage takes a plunge.
Tip #4: Do NOT leave your manners at home:
We all have been stuck with that person at a networking event who does all the talking, and little or no listening. Worse still, some people will let you speak, but not listen, they are busy scanning the room with their eyes. You do not want to be that person, giving the impression that the other person is merely a placeholder pending when you are able to nab ‘more interesting people’.
Tip #5: Follow up:
The purpose of networking is not to fill the business card slots in your wallet. It is to hopefully start a business relationship with other professionals. So it is safe to assume that you hand out your business card in the belief that the other party will follow up. Conversely, for business cards received, follow up with a call/email as soon as possible. Don’t leave it for many months, only to contact the individual when you need something from them. This is bad form, and people who do this often build a bad reputation for themselves.
Networking is very useful, and can be an effective tool in building a successful career, if done properly. We believe that applying these tips will make you look forward to anything with networking written on it!