I was invited a couple of weeks ago to speak at a leadership conference catering to college students. I was on a panel with three other great panelists discussing networking and how College students can use networking to advance their career
The one question that kept coming up was: How can I network with executives or recruiters without coming across as pushy, needy, spammy, or self-serving
So I decided to write this post to discuss what is networking. Networking can be offline face to face, or online through emails or social media channels
The idea of networking makes many people uncomfortable … or confused. Networking is based on the premise that we are all humans and need each other. Networking should be beneficial to both parties involved, so think WIIIFT or “What Is In It For Them” and highlight the benefits and values that you can add to others
Networking is the art of making yourself memorable so your contacts won’t forget you, remember the Golden rule: Networking is the practice of engaging people the way you want to be engaged, and I will add: The way they want to be engaged.
These are few tips I wanted to share that I gathered throughout my years of experience including some faux-pas and heartaches that I want you to avoid:
1- SMILE: You will be surprised how many people forget to smile. Smiling is part of your body language that you need to watch when you network, including having open gestures, confident posture, and eye contact; body language actions speak louder than words.
2- Be Yourself: Be genuine, people will feel if you are being fake, and it will get in your way. Make sure to watch people’s personal space and touching
3- Share your passion as this is what will come through, do not minimize or make fun of anyone ideas, work or industry – remember everyone’s dream is close to their hearts
4- Realize you always have something to offer: Start networking with the main goal of helping others, caring about their needs more than yours. If you feel this is crazy, it is not – it is about actually paying it forward; you will get paid back in time when you least expect it
5- We live in a very diverse world, so first and last names vary a lot, some are easy to repeat and some not so easy, in this case make sure to ask a person how to say their names properly. Nothing is more irritating than when I feel someone doesn’t care enough to know how to say my name. Repeat the name few times in the conversation
6- It is not about YOU, it is about building lasting human relationships and not pushing yourself or your needs on others
7- Practice Active Listening (more than talking) and that is listening without prejudice meaning that you need to clear a space physically and mentally, do not assume knowing how they will finish their sentence, do not judge or label whoever is speaking, keep eye contact, ask questions, lean very slightly forward to show interest in the conversation
8- Know your brand: Be prepared to introduce yourself, put your best foot forward in under 60 seconds, otherwise called “Elevator pitch” (Look at my post about self-branding) without being too salezy (My own combination of Sales + Sleazy).
9- Concentrate on Three to Four people to get to know when you attend a networking event, that you know can make a difference in your life or can help reach your goals on the long run, and focus your efforts on these people rather than running around the room the whole night, or having a wandering eye looking around the room to find your next prey while you’re still talking to someone.
10- Know the difference between asking for help, asking for advice or asking for a favor (this is a great tip that another panelist shared that day) when you ask someone for help without being specific like “help me find a job” you overwhelm them, they feel anxious and their reaction might be negative to your request. When you ask for advice you have something specific to ask; people being people are eager to land a hand and feel important, ask one or two specific questions and ask for recommendation. To ask for a favor is again asking for something very specific like “You have known me for a while, I think I could be a good fit for this job, would you consider recommending me to the hiring manager”.
11- Expand your horizons: Network with people outside of your industry you can never know who you will meet. Do not dismiss anyone as irrelevant you can never know when you might need them.
12- Everyone is strapped for time: Respect your and other people’s time, so always be clear to the point and always always first ask someone if they have a moment either in person or on the phone
13- Be an connector: Introducing like-minded people is a powerful tool to enhance your network, again pay it forward, ask people if they want to be connected and be the connector
14- Make networking a habit: Reach out to at least one new person a day, and 3 to 5 people already in your network online or offline (Networking is both about new people as well as people that you had in your network)
15- NO doesn’t necessarily means No: Keep at it and you might get a Yes. A No can be temporary due to certain conditions that can change in the future hence following up is extremely important. Do not take NO personally it is not about you. Keep networking with the person that said NO no matter what. Throughout my life, more than 90% of NOs have turned to YESes as I persevered on networking with these people in a very delicate, soft way.
16- Remember to share your business card and ask for others’ business cards, a great way for me to remember every person I get a card from, I write on the back of the card either what we talked about or if they were interested in any of my ideas or services so when I follow up I remind them of the conversation. When you receive a business card make sure to scan it first before you put it back in your pocket, as this is un-respectful in some cultures
17- You have 48 hours to follow up as people in general have a short memory span so they can remember you
18- If you are networking online, most of these tips apply. Make sure your emails are concise and to the point. Use the proper subject line and ask for what you need at the beginning of the email. Do not use ALL caps, and do not send mass emails; nothing is worst that a generic email when you need to build personal relationship. Take the time, it is a commitment if you really care about results like having long sustainable relationships
19- Do not spam people, or clutter their in-mail box the minute you meet them either face to face or online.
20- Do not ask for favors right after you connect: For example do not ask a contact on LinkedIn to recommend right after connecting when they do not even know what you do.
21- Share interesting content, articles or blogs with your online connections through status updates or offline contacts by emails without inundating their mail box, not only you are helping your contacts but you are also establishing yourself as a credible authority resource in your field
22- I always say: Ask you get, so if you need to meet someone ask to be introduced or approach them and show interest in connecting with them, use something in common or discuss something you know about them (Always do your research) especially if you feel that this person can help you in the future
23- My last word of wisdom is: You can never know till you know, so go ahead and network you can never know who you will meet
Your next interview may be happening this minute, your biggest client can be watching you now, you can never know who is in a room so always be YOUR best ever.
Holidays are the best time to network as people are in a jolly giving mood. Hope this helps, if you have any comments, or you have more tips, please add them in the comments so others can profit.
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