It’s no secret that networking can take you very far in your career. When you meet new people in the industry that you work in, you’re building a connection that could potentially get used to improve on any career prospects you might have. The only downside is not everyone is naturally talented in the networking department. Whether you’re shy, get nervous speaking in front of people, or just aren’t overly confident in your own abilities; these are all valid reasons that could keep you from branching out and networking yourself at work.
Luckily, there are proven methods that work and can help you excel at the art of networking even if you’re a beginner, or not the type of person that would usually do it. You can use the following six methods to help make the process more comfortable for you, so you can get right down to developing strong connections that could potentially drive your career further.
Be True to You
While you were growing up, you probably heard your parents tell you repeatedly that the best thing that you can do is be yourself; and they were right. It might sound like a piece of obvious advice, but many people unintentionally put on too much of a confident front when meeting new people. Many times this happens as a way to boost up what they feel is limited self-esteem, but this could come across in a bad light. You wouldn’t put all of your trust in a showy, overly confident salesperson; so it’s best to avoid that type of behavior when meeting someone.
When you spend your time being anything but yourself and being overly confident, it does leave you with a false sense of security that leads you to believe that it gives the right impression to those that you speak with, but it does the opposite. Studies have suggested that those that boast and are showy come across as insincere, whereas others who focus more on what they do in their spare time and where they come from show genuine interest in building trust and getting to know the person they are speaking to.
Make the Effort
One thing that you want to avoid when building relationships are giving off the impression that you’re trying to rush through it. Good things come to those who wait, and networking should get treated like a marathon, and not a sprint. If you attend an industry event and you meet people that you feel you might get along with, or you think could be solid professional contacts, it’s important to remember that you won’t become best friends overnight.
There is a chance that you might not work well under pressure, so spending time thoroughly getting to know your new contacts could play out in your favor. Building a rapport over time and allowing the relationship to develop naturally is going to be more beneficial than treating the encounters as a make-or-break scenario. Your new friends might not appreciate it if they get the feeling that the only reason you are trying to build a connection with them is for career advancement purposes.
Make the Most of Opportunities
You can use almost any work function as a networking event; you just have to be open to making the most out of the opportunities that present themselves. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that work functions such as parties and team mixers are full of other colleagues who are looking to branch out and fill their little black book with contacts from other divisions of the company you work for. Are you going to make a lasting impression on someone who is also getting approached by multiple other people in the same room, using the same tactic?
Experts recommend that thinking outside of the box is the best way to build on your networked contacts. Opportunities can present themselves in strange places if you just look for them. You might not realize it, but you can make the most out of time spent in a waiting room, airplanes during travel, dental offices, a friend’s party, and more. Another benefit to starting these conversations in random places is they begin genuinely, which means there should be no issue building a real connection.
Flip the Conversation
Networking can be stressful for anyone, and you might feel like the pressure is on to make a good impression. However, you don’t need to talk about yourself to do that. Your new work friends might find it refreshing if you spend your time talking to them and asking questions about who they are and what they do. You might even make a lasting impression that goes beyond appreciated efforts. There is always plenty of time to talk about what you’re good at, but focusing on your new contact first could be what you need most.
Design a Business Card
If you’re attending a networking event, it’s almost a guarantee that everyone there has their own business card, and they’re being handed around freely. You’re likely to walk away with many, yourself. The downfall is if yours is a generic design, it’s going to blend amongst the rest of the cards, so it’s best to avoid your plain black font and white cardstock.
Professionals suggest sprucing your card up with figments of your personality, and some even recommend adding a photo so that a name can get translated to a face. Use colors, patterns, and eye-catching designs to put your business cards at the top of the pile and standing out from all the rest.
Help Your Connections
Your professional connections aren’t just friendships that you’ve developed, but they are resources that you turn to when you need help. Whether you’re looking for someone to collaborate on a project with you, or you’re looking to find out if another department has job openings; these resources are who you are going to turn to first.
Even if you haven’t provided help to your connections in the past, you can still ask for their assistance, just make sure you know the proper etiquette. However, your best bet is to always make sure that you are there to help your contacts when they turn to you, so you won’t have any qualms about turning to them in your time of need.
Regardless of if it’s in your nature, spending time networking opens more opportunities for you and is far better than scouring online job boards. All you need to do is put in the effort, be yourself, and get out there to see what’s available. When you use these six tips, you might notice that you’re better at networking than you initially thought.
What tips do you have for those who are new to networking? Start a discussion below.