Although networking can be uncomfortable and awkward for quite a few people, it is a necessary part of business that has the potential to pay off enormously. Time and again we hear, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” While this sort of playing field may seem unfair in regards to capitalism, it is an essential truth that is inherent in nearly every business competing against each other today. We are more inclined to listen to personal referrals and while in a purely, objective-based, ideal world this is out-of-place and biased, we do not live in an ideal world. We live in this reality, and in this reality, people listen to whom they know.
In light of this, there are a few tips I have picked up over the course of my career that I have found to be of tremendous benefit when networking. With these tricks up your sleeve, networking may not be pleasurable but it will certainly become more productive, which means it can make your time more profitable, and that is more pleasurable, no matter who you ask. Consider my personal networking secrets:
Conduct yourself with a purpose.
Intention. Goals. Purpose. Know why you are where you are and what your goal is. Do not just show up simply for the sake of being seen and collecting business cards. Rather, try to associate with those who you think can be of a legitimate help to your professional career. Or, engage individuals who are knowledgeable about a subject matter you’d like to know more about. The upside to networking is nearly limitless and the downside is nearly nonexistent. Exercise enough common sense and you may just build an extraordinary network.
It can be difficult to walk up to a stranger out of the blue and strike up a meaningful and productive conversation. That’s why icebreakers are so necessary. Even though it may seem a little unnatural to have a pre-concocted phrase to open every conversation in the room, it actually helps to make everything more natural. Personally, I prefer “What brings you here tonight/today?” because it immediately establishes a common connection—the fact that you’re both there in the first place.
Please, please follow-up.
After pushing your social boundaries for an entire night, it can be so wasteful to not follow-up. Make the most of your time and exchange contact information with people who you had a meaningful conversation with so you are actually expanding your network. To reach out to people is great and to step outside of your comfort zone is even better, but don’t let it all be for naught. A simple text message or email following an event can do wonders for you professionally, in regards to either bringing in more business or accelerating your career.
Networking is a resource that remains untapped for so many people just because it’s a little uncomfortable. In regards to your career, there is no room for insecurity; so step out, step up, and step forward. Make yourself known.