“Networking” is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot, and for good reason – business networking is important when it comes to enhancing your career.
It’s not enough to simply send out your resume and hope for offers to come your way. In today’s job market, knowing someone can be the best way to get your foot in the door. The key is to connect with contacts who are relevant to your industry—and the type of career that you’re pursuing. Luckily, there are plenty of solid networking tips to help you learn how to work a room, make a great impression, and open up potential career opportunities.
When to start networking
The sooner you start networking, the better. In fact, one of the best times to take advantage of networking opportunities is while you’re still in school. That’s because you are likely surrounded by large pools of people who are interested in pursuing careers in related fields, and by professors who can be invaluable sources for building new professional contacts. If your school offers clubs or groups related to your industry of choice, joining can be a great way to practice your business networking skills.
However, it’s not enough to just meet new people. You have to maintain relationships if you’re looking to build potential resources for future employment searches. Another option to consider while you’re still a student is volunteering or interning at a company that’s relevant to your career goals—it’s a great way to make connections that may eventually lead to a job opportunity once you graduate.
How to network
The first step to networking successfully almost always begins with striking up conversations with strangers. There’s no getting around it. The hardest part is making that first contact—and the easiest way to do that is by jumping in and introducing yourself. Then, it’s time to find common ground and learn more about the person by asking questions. You’d be surprised to find how much people enjoying talking about themselves if you give them the chance! That brings us to our next point. Be a good listener. That means really paying attention to what people are saying, rather than just thinking about how you will respond. A good tip to try is to repeat the other person’s point, in your own words. This shows that you are listening, and that you understand what they are saying.
One of the most important networking tips to remember is to be a giver and not a taker. In other words, leave your personal agenda at the door. If you go into conversations only thinking about what you will get out of the other person, you’re doomed to fail.
7 important networking tips
Now that you’re more familiar with how to network, it’s time to explore some strategies to become more effective at it. Some of these tips may seem obvious, but it’s easy to throw them by the wayside when you’re actually in conversation.
1. Be yourself
The best way to connect with other people is by being authentic. Show your true self rather than trying to put on a front to impress others. And don’t be afraid to add some humor into the conversation to lighten things up.
2. Be aware of your body language
It’s important that you appear open and confident in your body language. That means keeping your arms uncrossed, making direct eye contact and—or course— giving off positive vibes with a genuine smile.
3. Never dismiss anyone as “unimportant”
One of the biggest mistakes people make is writing off others before getting to know them. You never know who could introduce you to your next boss—or be your next boss.
4. Connect the Dots
A huge part of being a successful networker is helping to connect other people, even if there’s nothing that is obviously in it for you. Remember, be a giver—if you’re known as a resource, people will think of you when opportunities come up.
5. Ask for introductions
One of the best ways to connect with important people is to be introduced by someone that they already trust—so don’t be afraid to ask. You have nothing to lose!
6. Follow up without being pushy
It’s always a good idea to follow up with a timely email—or even a chat on the phone. Just be wary of coming off as too desperate, if you can’t connect initially. Give the person time to respond on their own terms.
7. Stay connected:
If you get a referral from one of your contacts be sure to keep in touch about how the new connection is going. This will show your appreciation for the introduction and help make it more likely that the referrals will continue.
It’s understandable that putting yourself out there can feel intimidating. But, building both your professional and social contacts really is a great way to expose yourself to people who could help further your career ambitions. Being comfortable and confident in your interactions with others is also a skill that can take you far in business, regardless of whether or not you’re looking for new job opportunities. So get yourself out there and remember to pay it forward!