If the simple mention of the word “networking” makes you cringe, I get it. I used to be like that. Networking for me meant being in an uncomfortable situation where you meet someone and try an awkward conversation about each others’ work, already thinking it wasn’t going anywhere. Does it ring a bell?
So, it’s time to leave this concept behind. Networking is one of the best opportunities to meet potential employers, clients or collaborators. I’m the living proof that once you pass the fear phase, things happen as I got two clients in a matter of weeks! Think about how many times you learned of an open position or was referred by a contact. See, networking is essential!
Started to change your mind but don’t know how to act? Here are some powerful tips:
– The internet is great but meeting in real life is even better. Go to every event, workshop, talk and Meetup that puts together professionals from your industry. Once there, walk around, smile and show an inviting attitude. Have a drink if needed and leave the mobile inside your handbag, so there’s no excuse to hide behind it. Oh, and keep your cards on hands all the time.
– Probably almost everyone else is also self-conscious or shy in these situations, so relax! Speak naturally about your career and background but focus on your goals (Change of areas? Learn specific skills?), so people will have a clear vision of your skills and objectives.
– You admire the talker’s work or are a fan of one of the attendants? Take a deep breath and go talk to them! If he or she is busy, stick around and as soon as possible, make a compliment about his work or presentation (who doesn’t like it?), briefly introduce yourself and start a conversation. Never, ever say directly that you are looking for a job in the company or that you’d love to work for the person. Being subtle also means being professional.
– Of course networking online is a good think, particularly on LinkedIn. Just be careful to send a personalised message when asking to connect (“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” sent to someone you don’t know is simply terrible!). Follow them on Twitter or Instagram, engage in discussions and show your interest. Nevertheless, please, be reasonable and don’t become a stalker or one of these annoying people that begs to be blocked!
– Keep in mind that the most important thing is to show a genuine interest in exchanging experiences and growing your contacts. It may be intimidating at first but once the activity feels natural, things start to happen. Simple as that!
Note: my fear of networking went away after I attended a talk about it and met Mary Jane Boholst, from Conscious Cocoon. She offers a coaching service focused on growing businesses through networking. The program is tailored to the client’s needs and can range to a few sessions to a 12-month training. Learn more at www.conscious-cocoon.co.uk