Networking…ugh, just saying the word brings up images of car sales men running around a fancy lounge with a drink in their hand, going from person to person trying to get them to buy a lemon. I still hold this crazy image in my head about networking, even though I’ve learned the importance of getting yourself out there. Crazy I know, but the idea of trying to sell yourself/your services/your business at a “networking” event in 30 seconds or less is not what I enjoy doing, but I have learned the benefits of doing it. Heck, I got my last two jobs that way and with the way this economy is going now a days, it’s now more than ever true that it’s about who you know and not all about what you know.
To get myself over the initial general aversion to the word, I continue to work on being able to enjoy networking events for what they are – a great place to get to meet new people, outside your regular network of friends/acquaintances/business contacts.
I have also began networking via other avenues. Outside of making sure you add current and past co-workers and supervisors to your list of networking contacts (try not to burn these bridges – you never know when you may need them), I have taken continuing education classes and added my classmates and instructors to my networking pool. Choosing these networking options has proven to be a great success for me because I don’t feel “car salesman like” when I’m making connections and fostering relationships this way. So if you shy away from networking events, consider exploring one of these options.
Below are a few other suggestions:
- Find yourself a mentor. Mentors are amazing – not only when you’re starting out, but when you’re contemplating a career change.
- Become part of and attend professional association meetings/events, which match what you’re currently doing and/or what you want to be doing in the future.
- Volunteer for jobs that match what you’re currently doing and/or match what you want to be doing in the future.
Getting to know others in these ways allows them to not only have more things in common with you, but they also get to see different sides of you and your personality – which is way more impactful than the most well produced resume can be.
- Practice your “soft skills”, which include listening, body language, and conversation skills. (To further help those of us who are shy and don’t love networking, but know it’s essential, I’ve included the following Networking Checklist that I found from the ABS News Center. It not only has a checklist to follow, but also has conversational items you can use at each step.)
- This does not mean that you should go in talking yourself up, which happens to turn me and a lot of people off, but do genuinely approach everyone with the sincerity of wanting to get to know more about them and their skills/abilities/business.
- Once you’ve played the listening role, if they in turn are genuine about their networking, they will then ask you to share information about yourself, your skills/abilities/business and you need to be prepared to share your “highlight” real (accomplishments, strongest skills set(s), etc. – know thyself and be able share it in a couple of minutes) along with your intentions (new job, career change, mentor, etc.)
Knowing what you have to offer is essential to a successful networking connection.
Here’s to our continued networking success!
What are some of your networking “go to’s”? How has the value of networking impacted your professional/personal life?