It seems that the road to success is networking. It can be career suicide if you fail to network in this day and age. Everyone is doing it and needs to do it. But for many, networking is more painful than anything imaginable. For introverts, shy people and/or socially challenged, it doesn’t mean the end of the world. With the helpful tips found here, you can build a network to match any extrovert.
Before you go to the event you need to prepare and practice. Having done this ahead of time will take some of the pressure off while in the situation. You will know what to say, how to say it, and when to quit.
- Write 3-5 open-ended questions that are appropriate for everyone in the room. Such as questions about the venue, food, weather, upcoming holiday, etc. act as ice breakers as a lead-in to a conversation.
- Know what’s going on around you and the world so that you are can keep up with conversations by reading the newspaper, listening/watching the news, and other current events.
- If possible, find out who will be there ahead of time. Do a Google/LinkedIn search on people you are interested in meeting. When you have some background information, you can prepare questions and have some knowledge about the person so you won’t be at a loss for words.
- Assemble a list of goals you would like to achieve at the event. Find a reasonable number of people you would like to connect with at the event. You don’t need to talk to everyone, but having a number will keep you focused on continuing the networking.
- Ask family and close friends to help you prepare for the event by allowing you to practice you questions, body language that is welcoming, friendly and social, and general chit-chat. Ask them for honest feedback and take their suggestions for improvement.
- Go over your elevator speech many times so it comes out sounding natural and not over-rehearsed.
- Practicing while you are in a safe environment will give you confidence. The more you practice the better and more self-confident you will become, which makes networking so much easier.
While you are there, you are stepping out of your comfort zone to build relationships with people who benefit from knowing you. You have prepared and practiced, and now it’s show time
- Arrive early before the bulk of the crowd arrives. You will feel less intimidated with only a few people in the room.
- Bring a trusted friend/colleague to introduce you to others, provide emotional support, and tips for success.
- Look around the room for someone who looks like you feel. Engaging in conversation with this person is a low risk way to start the event.
- No matter how many people are at the event, you don’t have to connect with all of them. You have set a goal. Once you have reached your goal you can either continue or stop the choice is yours.
- It’s a good idea to take a break from networking to restore your energy. Every venue will have a restroom where you can retreat to. Find a quiet corner to check your email/voice mail or reread your notes and goals. With a boost of energy, you can continue to work the room.
- Fake it until you make it. Walking around the room with a smile, firm handshake and welcoming body language no one will see the terror that is raging throughout your body.
- Once you have engaged someone in conversation, you can take on the role of listener. Allow them to do what most people enjoy-talking about them while it takes the pressure from you to keep the conversation going.
- Know when and how to end the conversation. There is something to be said about less is more. Instead of getting to the point where you start rambling or fumbling for more conversation, thank them for taking the time to talk with you, acknowledge they must have many people they want to see, you appreciate their time, and you would like to continue the conversation at a mutually convenient time and way.
- Ask for a business card or contact information so that you can follow up.
After the event you are finished the hard part, but there is still some work to do. But you will be more comfortable connecting one-on-one and have had time to relax and recharge.
- Look at your goals and see if you accomplished them. If the answer is yes, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. If not, don’t beat yourself up It isn’t about the quantity of your network it is the quality. You stepped out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there.
- Follow up in the way you said you would. You worked hard to get the contact, don’t lose it by not following up. Networking is about building a relationship not just collecting names. Look for ways to be a valuable contact for them and glad you are part of their network. It will serve you later down the road.
You have something to offer everyone you talk to, and they want to meet you. These tips are meant to help you in doing what is uncomfortable for you. Don’t hide in a quiet corner, got out there– mix and mingle your way to success.
Arleen Bradley is a certified career coach and certified job loss recovery coach. She assists clients in moving beyond job loss grief in order to land dream jobs. To learn more about the Job Loss Recovery Program and how you can benefit from it, log on to www.arleenbradley.com.
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