3 Networking Hacks
3 Networking Hacks
Career Management, Interview, Never Stop Networking!
A client once called me a "natural networker" as my main focus as a headhunter was to first identify then cultivate relationships with new people all the time. I've never appreciated a compliment more! As someone who made a life and career off of networking, here are 3 Networking Hacks to help you get the most out of your opportunities to network.
Hack #1. View Networking as a positive, effective, and everyday activity that will bring joy, new connections, and opportunity. One of the main complaints about networking is that it's a waste of time because you'll be bombarded by people who want something from you, and by the same token, you may also be perceived as too "opportunistic" or trying to take advantage of others.
Not to mention, most people you meet at large networking events or industry meetings end up not really making a difference or keeping in touch. As a perception of the many drawbacks and negative connotations of networking, one may shun or avoid future events as he/she "never gets anything from it".
This mentality of fear and avoidance can't be further from the truth. No one succeeds in utter isolation. In the modern digital age with everyone hiding behind computers and algorithms, in-person meetings offer abundant opportunities to distinguish yourself from the fray.
The surprising truth is that, everyone is networking without even knowing or admitting it! The house party, company event, or dodgeball game where you met your new business partner probably wasn't marketed as a networking event. Let's remove the stigma from networking as being driven by ulterior motives and solely a "work-related" activity. Everything we do is driven by something. There is no shame or awkwardness in that! Don't let the label of "Networking" tarnish what it is, a fun activity otherwise known as human interaction and communicating.
Therefore, the best way to approach networking is to integrate your true personality and authenticity into the exchange. If we view networking events as productive, they will magically be, so the first step is to gather confidence in ourselves to tackle our mindset of "won't" to "will".
As to keeping in touch, the onus lies on everyone involved. Why do we always assume the other person dropped the ball after our one attempt to reach out? Shouldn't we try again? It takes two to tango - if you want a follow-up, do it yourself and write another email or, better yet, call that person!
TIP: Challenge yourself to socialize more to improve your networking skills, whether in a more formal, non-familiar setting with new people, Network After Work, Meetup events, CourseHorse classes (get a discount on me!), Toastmasters, or informally, like social events you previously deemed not worth going to.
Hack #2 Before you go to a networking event, know why you're going and how you're going to introduce yourself. Thankfully, networking is so predictable in the sense that right after people learn your name/shake your hand, they will ask you "Who are you?" or "What do you do?" If you can't succinctly respond, you may lose the little rapport you gained and any future opportunities to impress your audience.
The best way to handle this simple yet complicated question is to prepare your introduction ahead of time. Read my other post on how to deliver a killer self-intro if you don't already have one.
After delivering a smooth intro, that's when the real networking begins, which leads me to Hack #3. Learn the networking language to articulate what you'd like to get from the interaction, and how you can reciprocate. At the beginning of the conversation, it's hard to launch into "sell-mode" if you don't know what the other person does. To find out, the trick is to ask open questions that necessitate the longer responses. Questions like "How did you get into that?", What do you like about your field?" open up conversations, while narrower Yes/No (closed) questions may end conversations, especially if they keep answering No.
After determining rapport and mutual relevance through open-questioning, you can now go into pitch-mode, as in, informing them what you'd like out of the exchange. Ideally, you can even phrase it in a way to relate in their terms. Instead of saying, "You should look into XYZ", try "As you mentioned earlier, XYZ might benefit your objectives."
Irregardless of their interest in your pitch or your needs, end the interaction smoothly by asking the last question, "Now that I've told you all about me, and what I do, how can I best help you?" Reciprocation is key to a successful networking/social interaction. You get what you give, so be as generous as you can. You'll be delighted by the results.
In summary, we can all be natural networkers by improving our communication skills. Practice makes perfect - welcome any chance to socialize as it's just networking in disguise!
What do you think about networking? I'd love to hear your thoughts below!
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