Networking is essential to building relationships and furthering your career. Luckily, there are tricks to help you network (even if you hate it)
- Networking is an essential skill that can help you get ahead in your career.
- Even if you hate networking it is still possible to master the art through the implementation of certain skills.
- There are clear dos and don’ts when it comes to networking.
For many of us the thought of walking into a crowded room and introducing ourselves to complete strangers sends our anxiety racing. We start sweat just thinking about it, the idea of networking is enough to make us want to run. That said, the ability to network is a very valuable tool and, if you want to get ahead in your career, it should be done regularly and with skill.
The importance of networking cannot be denied. Research shows that over 70% of people have landed their jobs thanks to networking not to mention climbing the corporate ladder. Exceptional leaders are often excellent networkers. This may seem like an impossible task, but don’t panic, there are some painless proven techniques to help you work a room and make a connection even in the direst circumstances. Here are five tips to help you succeed a networking, even if you hate it:
1. Arrive early
Let’s face it, you more than likely want to arrive as late as possible. Don’t do this! Arriving early at a networking event is a good strategy. When you arrive early things are generally calmer thus giving you the opportunity to adjust to your surroundings and settle in. In addition to this, other early birds will be there too and, chances are, they won’t yet have found a group or be mid-conversation. Wendy Gelberg emphasises the importance of arriving early in her book, The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career when saying, “There are just a few random people who have shown up early, and they’re delighted to have someone to talk to. Then you become part of the group.”
2. Don’t hijack the conversation
Many people become extra chatty when nervous. Talking is good, but don’t overcompensate by taking charge and dominating the discussion. Studies show that those with the most success at networking are the ones that are good at making people feel special. As a result, an excellent networking strategy is to simply listen. The aim is not to be a talker, but rather a conversationalist.
3. Avoid the hard sell
A common mistake amongst networkers is that people often approach networking as an opportunity to sell. Remember that your goal is to forge working relationships rather than making a compelling sales pitch. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to sell as it’s a sure-fire way to turn people off and kill a conversation. Your aim should simply be to get an enjoyable conversation started. People are more likely to build relationships with those that they enjoy spending time with.
If someone asks you about your company be sure to have your elevator pitch polished and ready. Before attending the event make a mental list of recent successes, like closing a big deal, so that you can subtly drop this into the conversation. Be sure to get to the point quickly however and don’t drone on about how fabulous you are.
4. Watch your body language
When it comes to networking, like most things in life, be sure to take note of your body language. Resist the urge to sit, you will only isolate yourself as people are unlikely to approach a person who is sitting. Don’t cross your arms as doing so makes you look closed off and unapproachable. Be sure to make regular eye contact, smile often and repeat a person’s name. And, most importantly, get things going with a good handshake. A firm handshake is an invaluable weapon in your networking amour as it shows confidence and assertiveness. Likewise, a weak handshake can suggest a lack of confidence. Balance is key. Too limp and you look weak, too firm and you could come across as aggressive.
5. Always follow up
Remember that networking should be where the conversation begins not ends. If you’ve hit it off with someone be sure to get their contact details and get in touch within 48 hours of the event. When making contact reference something that you discussed as this is a good icebreaker and, if possible, make a plan to meet again.
Even though the ability to network is not innate, it is an important life-skill that can positively impact your relationships and your career. Mastering the art of networking is possible and advantageous. You can become a good networker, even if you hate it.
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