Networking. Probably one of the most feared activities for young professionals. Walking into a room with established professionals and trying to figure out who to talk to. What do you say? How do you make a connection?
Honestly, we network all the time. We just do it differently than our more senior professionals. Yes, LinkedIn is networking. Yes, it is valuable, but there is no human connection. Sometimes we have to do it by talking! What? Talking?
Don’t fear. It is easier than you think. Some simple rules and tips should get you going.
1) Be confident! You have valuable information to share. Come up with a few things you would like people to know about you.
2) Stay connected! Make sure you gather business cards. How about ending a conversation with “It was nice to meet you. May I have your business card so we can stay in touch?” and it can be a simple follow up that can make all the difference.
3) Don’t sell! Networking allows you to grow your network, meet people, and connect with them on a personal level.If they are interested in what you do, they will ask. A sales pitch can sometimes set a bad tone.
4) Ask questions! People like to talk about themselves and their profession. Ask them about it. You will remember Joe from the event at the pub last month who has a 6 month old puppy. You might not remember Joe who told you he could help reorganize your financial goals by helping you to create a budget.
5) Connect others! In a world with technology we often trust the recommendation of a peer over a brand or company itself. This helps show that you are confident enough to connect people and provides an opportunity for you to exit the conversation if needed.
Always look out for a closed group or an open group. Our body language can tell a lot! A closed group is people who are facing each other. Chances are they are having a great conversation and don’t want to be interrupted. An open group is a group of individuals that are facing slightly outward almost like they are inviting others to join. Walk over there. Right now. You can do it.
We often hear the term elevator speech. We should all have a 15 second intro that says who we are and what we do. This can help direct conversation and engage others. When possible, make it about helping others. For example “Hi, my name is Jane. I work with ABC Graphic Design and we help small businesses create professional identities in order to compete in the big leagues.”