Networking. This word carries so much weight and is often seen as something that can dramatically affect our professional career. When building a venture, you will often need all the help you can get. Between building a new team and finding mentors and advocates, networking will allow you to interact with people that have different experiences and expertises. However, networking is more than just meeting people, it’s building a foundation of trust and mutual respect for one another’s work. By building a group of advocates,, you can work more effectively and efficiently. So, where do you start? How do you network? These are some tips and tricks I’ve gathered along the way.
- Let’s get reading!
One of the most important parts in networking is being able to hold a conversation. You never know what someone might be interested in and being able to hold a conversation on any topic, even just a small fact, could really impress! I read around 15 articles on the Flipboard App a day, ranging from tech to art. Make sure to check out your sources and then learn something new!
- Never be afraid to ask for contact information or a card!
One of the hardest things to do is gather up the courage to ask someone for their contact info after meeting them. With LinkedIn, it’s easy to find someone again through the site but I’ve found that it’s always better to ask for their information and get their email directly! As your relationship grows, it’s easier to email them with updates on how you are doing and vice versa. In addition, be prepared by having a personal email that sounds more professional (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org instead of a childhood email address)
- Networking is a two-way street.
It should be balanced as both parties are gaining from the relationship. So make sure not only to ask but also propose your help! If I’ve learned anything is that no matter where in your professional journey you are, there is a way to help. Whether it be helping them advertise or forward an event, explaining a new trend or talking about something interesting you went through in class or in your professional journey, your story is also filled with lessons!
- Everyone is your network
Friends, Family, Neighbors, Professors, etc.. is a source of knowledge and part of your personal network. Never underestimate anyone and always show respect and care for everyone! One of the things I always look at when I meet people is how they treat their employees, co-workers and especially essential workers around them. So, say hello and engage in conversation with secretaries, janitorial staff and your local small-business owner.
- Know your strengths, passions and story!
We all meet a lot of people in our everyday life so it’s important to leave an impression. Think about how you present yourself and your story. What are you passionate about? What are your long term goals? Of course these can change and are flexible but having a sense of what you want can help better communicate! In addition, everyone has a life outside of work so be sure to maintain that while in the workforce. Being able to speak about what you are passionate about but also show you are cultivating this passion shows commitment and can be a good conversation starter.
- Posture and Eye Contact
When networking or meeting someone new, always make sure to have great eye contact and an open posture. Avoid slouching but rather stand back straight and arms uncrossed. This will show that you are open and receptive. In addition, maintain eye contact! Not only does it show you are interested in what they are saying, it also shows you have their full attention, that you are listening and that you aren’t here to waste time.
- Be yourself and be honest
This is the best advice I ever received. Why? Just as you would want to know if you are referring and advocating for someone you trust and believe in, show the same level of respect to who might help you. Being yourself and showing that you are honest and truthful is very important in establishing long-lasting foundations. You want people that can give you personal advice and that can advocate for you!
- Show Manners
Never underestimate the power of good manners! Just as Bert in Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar goes a long, long way” so be sure to be punctual, use active listening, communicate clearly, be polite and smile
- Send a thank you note
First, the next time you send an email, you won’t be thrown in spam. It’s also a show of respect for their time and work! In that email, be sure to include a piece of the conversation you had that really interested you or something new you learned. It will help the person remember not only you but the conversation.
My last piece of advice is to share your network! If you feel you can help and positively impact someone then do so! It’s impossible to monopolize or control your network because they are also people and they can make their own decisions. It’s like a ladder: if someone turns around to give you a hand to climb, be sure when it’s your time to do the same for someone else.
In that spirit, connect with us on LinkedIn if you have any more questions!