We can’t escape networking. It’s an important part of the job search and career development. It’s a great way to open doors of opportunity and to have different people in which to bounce ideas off. But to a lot of us, networking is a dirty word and is easier just to avoid. It’s so foreign to us, we might not even know where to start networking if we tried.
So, sometimes we have to go back to the basics. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran who needs a refresher course or a wallflower newbie who wants to learn the ropes, here are 10 important aspects of networking to best meet people and build lasting relationships.
Thou Shalt Have a Strong Introduction
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make it count. Confidently introduce yourself with your name, eye contact, and a sturdy handshake to individuals or small groups of two or three. It can be surprising to see how open people are to talking if you show a little confidence.
Thou Shalt Not Talk More Than Listen
You should be spending more time understanding and getting to know the people you’re talking to than talking about yourself. You have two ears and one mouth, so use them respectively. Your natural reaction to feeling nervous can be to continue talking, but instead take a breath and listen.
Thou Shalt be Relevant
Stick to the point. If asked to tell a bit about yourself, keep it less than a minute and leave out gritty details that are specific to your job or industry. You could be talking to people outside of your field and you want them to stay engaged, so avoid work jargon. Follow the conversation, so you can add relevancy to the topic.
Thou Shalt Not be Awkward
It’s easy to become too personal. Details about a recent surgery, spousal or family argument, political rant, or other personal subjects should be avoided until a stronger relationship with someone is built. Also, be aware of your body language. Good eye contact and staying an arm’s length from others are generally good social constructs.
Thou Shalt Provide Value
The best way to provide value is to find out what they actually need. Use those listening skills to learn the person’s immediate need, and devise how you can solve their problem or introduce them to someone who can.
Thou Shalt Not Be Phony
Don’t try to fake your interest in other people. Networking is about making mutual connections, and sometimes you simply can’t click with some people. If a conversation isn’t going well, excuse yourself, thank them for their time, and move on. You could be spending your time more wisely with someone else.
Thou Shalt be Positive
You should strive to maintain a positive attitude, even if you are having a tough time with the job market. People don’t like doing business with grumpy people. They are attracted to individuals who have can-do attitudes and are eager to accomplish and serve.
Thou Shalt Not Take Too Much Time
Overstaying your welcome is just as bad as ignoring someone. If you notice arms crossing, eyes wandering, or the word “anyway” being said frequently, that means it’s time to gracefully exit and start a new conversation.
Thou Shalt Give Opportunities to Stay in Contact
If a conversation is going well or there are potential job opportunities with someone, give them the opportunity to stay in contact. A business card is a great way to keep the conversation going. Don’t forget to politely ask for theirs, too.
Thou Shalt Follow Up
Any relationship needs to be maintained. Try to contact people of interest within 24 hours of meeting them to say you enjoyed meeting them. Be thankful even if they don’t have any immediate leads. They took their time to talk with you, and they can be a valuable resource later.
If you could add a Networking Commandment, what would it be?