5 Ways You Can Practice 'No Fear' Networking
It’s harder than ever to get your foot in the door these days. Postings for entry-level positions – which in many organizations have become internships – receive thousands of applications… yes, that’s three zeroes. This means the best way for you to end up on someone’s radar is through networking.
And lots of it!
But what if you’ve reached out to someone before and never received a response? Or gone to a networking event and left with an even bigger dose of despair?
That’s life. It happens to everyone, and will happen to you again.
So is there a way to approach the process of building valuable, lasting relationships with complete strangers and not feel nervous, ineffective or lost? You bet.
In fact, here are 5 ways you can immediately remove any fear or uneasiness you associate with networking:
This is the Golden Rule when it comes to networking. After all, you’re the one who is trying to branch out! You’re the person who’s looking for new relationships that will help move you along. So why not show everyone the real you? It isn’t difficult to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Far too often, we position ourselves as inadequate or unimportant because we think we aren’t smart enough, or don’t have enough experience. This ultimately results in us pretending to be someone, or something, we’re not. But nobody has time to waste getting to know the make-believe you!
Another thing: when we work too hard to impress someone we aren’t overly familiar with, which often results in fabrication or exaggeration, we’re actually intensifying the anxiety or nervousness that we want to avoid in the first place. Kidding yourself is harming you two-fold: people can see right through it, and if they don’t, your anxiousness will tip them off instantly. Be yourself, and be honest.
Know what you’re looking for.
Something you’ll want to firm up before sitting down with anyone for coffee or scheduling a phone call is what you’re looking for. How can your new contact put you closer to your dream job, or the company you want to work for? What are you hoping to gain from this relationship? How will you put your best foot forward and demonstrate your value to this individual? Not only will being clear as to what you’re looking for help you meet the right people, but it will also be critical for those you’re networking with.
For instance: if you show up to a focused networking event without an objective, how is anybody going to provide you with sound, actionable advice? Some of the hardest work any of us will ever have to do is to sit down and think: think about your short and long-term goals and shape your networking efforts around them.
Seek common ground.
The best way to hold a comfortable conversation with someone you don’t know very well is to establish mutual areas of interest. In some cases, these will be job or industry-related; in others, not so much. And that’s okay!
Prior to our networking attempts, we tend to psych ourselves out: “what could I possibly have in common with this more experience, more knowledgeable person?” But the truth is, it’s easy to start with chit-chat and slowly transition into the main reasons why you’ve asked to connect. And furthermore, those you network with are going to want to get to know you so they can determine the best way to try and help you!
Don’t waste too much time before getting down to business, but don’t forget to humanize your interactions either. It’s the little things that make the biggest differences.
Even when you’re the one who has asked to connect, it’s important you come armed with value. Maybe it’s an idea for the person’s team or department. Or perhaps you have another connection whom you feel would benefit your new contact.
Regardless, demonstrating value is going to make you memorable. You’re going to stand out if you show that you’re not just here to benefit, but you’re looking out for the both of you. Networking is very much a two-way street, even if it’s difficult for you to see how you might be able to assist your new contact. You’re always bringing something with you to the table – and it’s your responsibility to identify what that is depending upon who you’re meeting with.
Every. Single. Time.
Follow-up thank you calls or e-mails go a long way towards building a viable, long-term relationship that may help you in the future. One of the most common (and biggest!) mistakes made in any networking situation is a lack of continuity. It simply isn’t good enough to meet with someone, discuss their industry or a possible position, go cold turkey for 6 months, and then reach out again as if the iron is still in the fire. Share an article that you feel your contact might benefit from, or be interested in. Forward them an idea you have based on the conversation you shared.
Do something – anything – because failing to build the relationship after your initial contact will almost always result in a lost connection or opportunity. Stay connected, engage, and keep your name fresh in their minds and on the tip of their tongues.
How has networking helped you in your career or professional experience? Are there other key tips that can help increase one’s comfort level when it comes to networking? Feel free to discuss in the Comments section below!