All working adults know the benefit of networking and nurturing that connection for the future. Building a relationship with peers in the industry helps you find a potential client, sharing perspectives or even a new career. For graduates just entering the job market, networking can be daunting. How do you talk about yourself without selling yourself aggressively? Where do you begin by making a connection with a person during networking sessions?
If you are about to enter the working world, begin networking the right way (yes, there is a right way!). Going about it the wrong way could result in one of the following – you come across as unprofessional, the other person does not understand how this relationship can be mutually beneficial or you miss the opportunity to be introduced to a potential job. All these, in short, affect your future prospects. Want to know some tips on creating and building a connection with another person?
What You Should Do: Listen to the other person
While you may be tempted to talk about job opportunities or steering the conversation into getting a recommendation, take a step back. Networking is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Listen to what the other person is saying, their interests outside of work and their values. Even if what they’re saying doesn’t interest you, be interested in why they are passionate about it. The next step is to connect the dots and see where you can add value to their lives. Build a relationship with them.
What you shouldn’t do – changing the topic to suit you.
What You Should Do: Ask Open-Ended Questions
After listening to the other person’s knowledge on the importance of a customer’s journey in marketing, follow up with “why did you get interested in that area of marketing?”. Stick with the ‘who, what, where when, why and how’ questions to get the other person to share their thoughts and expertise. Use your active listening skills to pick up on topics and where you can be of help to them. And repeat with another follow-up question.
What you shouldn’t do – ask a lot of questions and not answer their questions about you.
What You Should Do: Have an Open Mind
Not all connections you make will pay off in the first meeting. It is all about future returns! With that in mind, do not discount the value of any person you meet. Some of them might be in a field completely different to yours. Keep an open mind. Get to know them, ask open-ended questions and be enthusiastic in getting to know them.
What you shouldn’t do – nod and smile, without engaging them in a conversation.
The next time you find yourself at a conference, a talk or even waiting in line at a cafe, remember the value of having a network. By listening, asking questions, having an open-mind, this helps you to connect and engage the other person in a conversation. If you get nervous like I do, it helps to plan your talking points. Refining your introduction, doing some reading about the current events and the career field you’re interested in, will be useful in your conversation.
Still having difficulty in creating that connection or you just don’t understand where you’re going wrong with your questions or connecting the dots back to you, give professional coaching a try. Fine tune your active listening skills to pick out the value you can add to the person or how they can help you in future!
After making a connection, follow-up with them and nurture the relationship. You can do this in a few ways, but the easiest is buying them coffee. Who can pass up the opportunity for a quick caffeine break?
What are some difficulties YOU face when it comes to networking? For experts at networking, share your tips to network effectively!