You might associate the term ‘networking’ with dull events, awkwardly staring at people’s name tags while shaking hands with strangers. By the time it ends, you may wonder how this tedious socialisation is supposed to help your career. Networking comes in many forms and there are fortunately less dull ways to go. Read on to start making your career prosper through the art of networking.
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The truth is, that as much as 65 percent of people in the US found their employment through networking. Not the form of networking you think of, though – the shaking hands with strangers should be one of the last steps of your networking ladder.
First Step: Use Your Connections
Instead of looking towards strangers for help, it is more fruitful to take a second look at those you already know. It may be a vague acquaintance from your days of studies, a neighbour from years back or a close friend. Before you start e-mailing everyone on your list, step back and look at who you should be talking to. Will your personal trainer be able to land you a job in accounting? Probably not.
Your personal trainer might have a close friend who can, though. This brings us to the second part of using your connections for what they’re worth. You might know somebody who knows somebody of use to you. Try to figure out who knows whom; perhaps your personal trainer once studied accounting but moved on. Don’t only use your own connections – use everybody else’s too.
Second Step: Get Online
After taking the greatest advantage of your connections, look towards those you can get in touch with online. The beauty of the internet is how it makes connecting with strangers a breeze. There is a reason to the skyrocketing of the online dating world; people simply prefer a less intrusive way of getting to know each other.
Firstly, get to know people who share your hobbies or interests. Why is it so unlikely that your fellow aquarium enthusiast should know someone in accounting? People with hobbies also have connections. A common ground to stand on is the best foundation for a wider network, whether it is a shared hobby or an occupation.
Now that you and your fellow aquarium enthusiast have become friendly, you learn that his uncle is in the accounting business. This brings us to the second step of networking online. Send the accounting uncle a neighbourly email, requesting an informal informative meeting. Let him know that you found him through your dear friend, the fish enthusiast. Perhaps he has some valuable tips, perhaps his knowledge can benefit you – perhaps he can be an essential part of your network.
Make sure that your friendly relations do not stay online. It is vital that a personal meeting takes place. Go grab a coffee, a beer, anything to get you face to face and get out there.
Third Step: Shake Hands with Strangers
The final step involves that awkward networking event. You will be desperately holding on to your cocktail, nibbling finger food to distract you from the clicks already forming. The key to making it less awkward is to master a certain level of chit-chat.
To avoid a rambling start of the conversation, prepare your elevator pitch. This pitch is exactly what its name implies: short enough to cough up during a ride in the elevator. It needs to sum up the academic and career-wise part of you, kind of like an oral business card.
Keep a smile ready and face the awkwardness with a bit of confidence. It will make your stranger relax more as well. Bring your cocktail with and find something you and your stranger might have in common. It will be your anchor in the ocean of chit-chat; something to hold on to for both of you.
Next and most crucial, be aware that others are there for your help. This event is not about what you want to get out of it; it is about what they want to get out of it. An attitude of being available to help others will help you realise that everyone in this room are equals – they are all there for the same thing. Be there for them, broaden their network and you will broaden your own at the same time.
Lastly, to be a successful networker you need to stop apologizing. Many hold a certain attitude towards networking; it is manipulative, awkward and insincere. This is simply a fear of asking others for help, feeling like we need to apologize for it. There is nothing to be sorry about; networking is an honest way of expanding your job opportunities. Just like it will benefit you to have a wider network, it will benefit the network to have you in their circle.
Written by Marte Klausen