Networking is tedious. It can feel forced and false and maybe even a little gross. But I’m here to tell you that’s just one perspective. It’s time to shift your frame of mind, because it’s all about who you know.
It’s common knowledge (at least it’s common professional folk lore) that the majority of jobs are filled through an introduction. Someone knew someone, and that’s why you were already late by the time the position was posted online.
Whether you like networking (or socializing) or not, it doesn’t really matter because it’s become a necessity.
Do your research.
This whole process will be a lot easier if you know the type of person you want to meet, or even better, you know exactly who you want to meet. If you’re going to an event outside of work, look at who else might be going and see if there are companies or industries that overlap with your interests. Ten minutes stalking looking people up on LinkedIn is time well spent.
If you’re at a work event, introduce yourself to the manager in the department you want to transfer to and someone who works in that department. Or maybe go straight to your boss’s boss. Good impressions are what these events are for.
Networking will feel a lot easier if you have set intentions. If you don’t, you may find yourself the wallflower just waiting for someone to talk to you.
Be interested in the person you’re talking to.
Do not — I repeat — do not only think about what you can get from this person. That’s when networking becomes sleazy.
It should never be a one-sided interaction. Straight out of the Dale Carnegie playbook, even if there isn’t something you can offer them (yet), be interested in their kid’s cello lessons or their new baking hobby or their new car with all its bells and whistles. People like people who listen to them talk about the things they like.
Find a common point of connection beyond what you need from them.
This is really just the second part of “Be interested in the person you’re talking to,” because it’s much easier to be interested in you have a common point of connection.
Do you know someone who went to their alma mater, or their spouse’s alma mater? Did you ever live in the city where they lived? It might feel like you’re reaching to find this connection, but to the person you’re talking to, it just sounds like you are really invested in the conversation.
It’s not as awkward as it feels.
All of this might feel a little forced, and it is (a little) which is why #3 is so important. If you can forge an actual connection, this won’t feel so uncomfortable. But until you find that perfect friend and connection, it’s going to feel awkward. Just remember it feels awkward for them too.
The power of a great network isn’t a secret anymore. Everyone knows what you’re doing, so just go for it. Remember, you can be a valuable part of their network too!
What are your tried and true networking tips? Have you found that the more you do it the easier it becomes or do you still just grin and bear it? Let us know!