The thought of going into a room cold, with just a name tag and a stack of business cards can be intimidating, anxiety inducing and downright painful. Networking doesn’t have to be that way.
With the advent of social media and the ability to stay connected online as an extension of the real world, networking can be done in ways that reduce exposure to sterile networking events, minimize stress and produce similar, if not better results as traditional networking.
Here are five ways that you can improve your networking skills without making it a painful experience.
Instead of leading off a conversation with what your needs/wants are, ask the other party what projects they’re working on. Eventually the conversation will turn to you and you’ll have an opportunity to talk about you and your needs.
Be a genuine listener when networking. People who listen are often thought of as great conversationalists. That’s because other people love to talk about themselves. Give them the space to do that.
3. Reach Out
Don’t wait until you have a critical need (e.g., must make a sale, desperately need a new job). Check in periodically with former colleagues, friends and acquaintances and find out how they’re doing. The next time an opportunity or lead presents itself, they’ll be a lot more likely to think about you.
2. Offer to help
If there’s a way you can proactively help a fellow networking contact, do it. It can be something such as introducing a contact, suggesting strategy or sharing your experience. Don’t over commit, but make a gesture that shows you’re paying attention and that you care.
1. Don’t be so selfish
For many people, networking is driven by selfish needs. “I need something and I need it now,” is a total turn off and perpetuates the (accurate) impression that you only reach out when you’re in need. And while people may respond, it’s going about networking the wrong way.
Networking should be an exchange between people or people and their networks.
It shouldn’t be self-serving, because all you’re doing is potentially hurting yourself (and your future networking opportunities) while trying to help yourself today.
Get out there and try some of these strategies today.