Tip # 1: Be authentic
The very best person to be when you’re networking is You. This might sound obvious, but so many people feel they have to be someone else - someone more intelligent, more knowledgable, more well-connected, more senior etc etc…. Being comfortable in your own skin is a big part of successful networking. People respond to people who are being themselves, and enjoying being themselves. When you’re not wasting energy worrying about what people think of you, or who you feel you ‘should’ be being, you’ll find you have lots more energy for asking other people questions, being curious and find that networking can be energizing and enjoyable. If you’re not comfortable being yourself, it may help to work with a coach to build your confidence in your professional (and personal) value - who you are and what you have to offer.
Tip # 2: Act ‘as if’
Act as if you’re full of confidence, energy and enthusiasm for the networking event you’re at or the communication you’re sending, and it will come across that you ARE indeed all those things. If you want to feel confident around whoever it is you’re speaking to, it helps to remember that they’re just a person), with a personal life beyond their professional persona, however grand that professional persona may seem. In all likelihood their personal life will have messy bits, just like our own - they’ll have worries and anxieties and parts of their life that don’t work as well as they would like. Remembering we’re all people doing our best from where ever we’re at will help you feel empathy with and generosity towards whoever it is you’re speaking to, giving you the confidence to speak to who they are as a person (not just their job title) – AND making acting ‘as if’ even easier.
Tip # 3: Be Curious
Curiosity is one of THE most powerful communication tools you own.
Being curious shows you’re interested, interesting, and on the ball: it’s the way to learn, grow and see things from other perspectives.
Being curious opens up conversation: very few people will not respond when someone asks them how they are, who they work for, or where they’ve come from this evening.
Being curious gives you confidence: you don’t need to know it all or have all the answers. If a conversation feels like it’s lacking energy or in danger of fizzling out, asking some open questions (what, how, how, why) will get things moving again. Similarly, if you’re in conversation with someone you’re in awe of, smile relax, ‘act as if’ and try these: ‘What’s the biggest professional challenge you’re facing at the moment?’ ‘What’s the most useful conversation you’ve had so far this evening?’ ‘What was your motivation for coming here this evening?’;
Being curious gives you ‘power’: understanding where other people are coming from first, before wading in with your own opinions and requests, allows you to frame what you say in the most appropriate way possible.
Tip # 4: Be generous
Get away from the slightly icky notion of networking being about self-promotion by focussing on what you can GIVE. This might be a listening ear, a fresh perspective, a shared connection, an idea. This kind of ‘giving’ can happen during a networking event, or as a follow up. Dropping an email to whoever you met to say how good it was to meet with them, and including an appropriate article or link you think could be of value to them can be a great way of staying in touch, embedding yourself in that person’s memory and beginning the process of becoming a ‘resource’ to your network.
However ‘junior’ you may feel in your profession, you have value to add. More senior colleagues and contacts value the enthusiasm and energy newer recruits bring to their field. Your relative ‘greenness’, your curiosity and open questioning - far from being inane or ‘time-wasting’ - is more often than not welcomed by more senior professionals as it provides them with an opportunity to reflect and gain fresh perspective on what they do, how far they’ve come, and where they’re headed in their own careers.
How about you? How do you deal with Networking? What are your Top Tips? What have you read here which resonates with you?