Want to expand your network, but find networking events extremely awkward? You’re not alone! The good news is that there are plenty of other ways to widen your list of professional contacts so you can make the most out of these precious connections. Here are some tips on how to make networking work for you.
Networking isn’t limited to face to face encounters. The rise of social media platforms made connecting with each other easier than ever before so you don’t even have to leave your seat to make new acquaintances. If you’re still getting the courage to mix and mingle, why not try these two options first.
- Start with who you know. At some point in your career, you’ve heard the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.” Family and friends are great sources when it comes to making new connections. Not only will introductions be less awkward, they are more likely to sing your praises than someone you just met. Their recommendations also bring more credence. So figure out what you want your career to be and ensure that those closest to you are aware of your goals and interests. You never know who your friends and family might come across in their day to day lives.
- Use LinkedIn to its full potential. Follow organizations and publications you’re interested in and you may just come across a job announcement that’s of interest or find people you never even thought of reaching out to. LinkedIn is also a great place to showcase your accomplishments and your CV.
After Making the Connections
Follow up. Once you’ve made the connections with people you want to talk to, set up a meeting with them. In person meetings are best when possible but conversations over the phone or video chat can also work when in person is not feasible. Use tools like WebEx or Skype if you can’t do one on one meetings.
Be prepared. Write down plenty of questions to ask so you won’t blank out at any point during the conversation. Prioritize them to ensure that you ask the most important questions first. You want to give yourself the opportunity to get as much information as you can in the short time you have in case the person you are meeting with only has a short amount of time to talk. During the meeting, make sure you ask who else you should reach out to. This crucial question will keep your networking moving forward. Every connection you make is an asset.
After the meeting make sure to follow-up with the person and thank them for their time. Also politely remind them of any introductions they said they would make for you. If you are on the job market, don’t be discouraged if none of the people you meet with have any open positions at their offices. The key takeaway is that you make yourself relevant so that in the event that they do come across a position they think you might be interested in, you’d be the first person they’ll call.
Networking is never easy but once you’ve had multiple opportunities through known acquaintances, you’ll have enough confidence to attend actual networking events! Start off with events where you know the sponsors. An example will be through your job, school or local YGL chapter. Familiar faces can help you make introductions and will provide plenty of opportunities to start conversations.
So I challenge you to give these ideas a try and find three people to reach out to this month. Ask them if they would be willing to talk with you briefly about their work. Chances are at least one of them will say yes!
This article was written by Sofi Martinez.