Maybe you’re unemployed and hunting for a new career. Maybe you feel stuck in your job and want to climb to the highest rungs of career success. Either way, smart networking is key.
Networking is all about people skills. You might know everything there is to know about your job, but if you don’t have people skills you’ll hit a career roadblock. Being resourceful means finding opportunities and the people around you are a never-ending supply of opportunities. A lot of us don’t even notice others unless they’re in our way or creating a problem for us. Networking means bringing positivity to our interactions.
Some people resist networking because they think it means being phony or manipulative. They don’t realize insincere schmoozing and networking aren’t the same. Real networking means building partnerships with people. You can be outgoing without being fake!
You’ll find networking events listed in industry newsletters and through word of mouth. When you network with others who already attend such events, you’ll start getting invitations to the best events—and everyone knows the best events are the exclusive ones. In the meantime, join real-world clubs and online groups related to your profession and your interests. If you can’t find a networking event, create one. Invite a select group of people to meet at a happy hour or an activity. Even online, through social media sites you can start your own networking event page specific for your industry.
Thanks to social media, shy folks can network without face-to-face meetings. But at some point you’ll have to be bold and get to a real-world meet-and-greet. Be confident. Don’t be apologetic for asking for help or reaching out to someone. If you feel like clamming up, remember that some of the people around you are probably shyer than you. Reach out to them and encourage them to open up. Helping other people feel good about themselves is a fundamental aspect of successful networking.
At the other end of the spectrum, seek out extroverted people when you’re networking. They have the social connections you’re trying to get for yourself, so let them bring you in to their circle. People like to help other people. They like to share what they know. As long as you are polite and not intrusive, many people in high levels in your profession will be glad to give you a word of advice. If a busy bigwig takes some time out of his or her schedule, be sure to show your appreciation with a hand-written thank-you note.
Get some business cards! You’d be surprised how many people at networking events don’t have them. Don’t want to get them because they’re old-fashioned or you don’t like handing them out? That’s fine, but you’d better have the most beautiful face, the wittiest banter and the most memorable name if you really expect everyone to remember you weeks later.
When you meet new people, it’s important to have a shared interest that gives you and the person you’re meeting something to talk about and get excited about. At an event, say hi to people you know, but don’t spend most of your time with them. You came here to meet NEW people. Smile. It’s a basic signal to everyone around you that your presence is a good thing.
Ask questions. You’re setting the conversational ground rules with a new person, so give him or her the opportunity to be heard. Who knows? You guys may end up being like two peas in a pod. When that time comes, you can feel free to argue or give your unsolicited opinion. For now, show an interest in them and what they care about by asking lots of questions. That’s how to offer real value, and offering value to others (and getting value in return) is what smart networking is all about.