Stepping up your networking skills is pivotal in your job search and career progression. You can read all the guides, excel at school, and submit 50 applications, but who you know does matter.
However, networking can make even the most extroverted person cringe. It can seem inauthentic and one-sided. However, networking is just a conversation and information exchange. The goal is to gain a new contact and maintain the relationship.
Implement these 4 tips into your next networking opportunity.
- Be Conversational: Most people network with the intention of securing a job or selling a product. Just like a TV ad, people will tune out if you act like another salesman. Approach people and start a regular conversation with a greeting and topic. Once you get comfortable, then move to talking about yourself and interest. If there’s only a limited amount of time, be prepared with a pitch.
- Work the Room: I strongly discourage limiting your network to senior leaders and executives. Although helpful and experienced, it’s important to also speak with peers and other people who can tell you the day to day in their role. Often, senior leaders are much removed from junior employee responsibilities. Build a diverse network with varying perspectives. And you never know, that junior employee might be the next VP.
- Come prepared. If you’re attending a networking event, you need to know who will be there. Identify and understand your audience. Knowing your audience is vital to determine the level of professionalism needed and how long a conversation may last. Always plan ahead and be ready to adapt.
- What happens next? Building a strong network requires an open line of communication and following up. After the initial meeting, send a follow-up email 1-2 days later and connect on LinkedIn. Interested in more conversations or mentorship? Let them know and get on their calendar. Be direct about what you want.