Networking sounds like a good idea — you reach out to people from different backgrounds, choose to hang out with them and hear about new opportunities in life. The thing is, though — it can be daunting to start without some solid networking tips. Even though you want a career that makes you happy, and even if your friends are supportive, how do you sharpen your networking skills?
When people talk about networking, they tend to include a lot of top-down thinking. They might tell you that the right job will fall into place if you just build up your network. You can’t just walk into a networking event and start handing out your business card. You have to know what the other person needs or wants before you can help them.
Creating business connections can be tricky. If you’re not doing it right, you might sell your soul while trying to climb the corporate ladder or, worse, end up with no job at all. I got a little bit of a later start in my career and spent the first 10 years managing restaurants. Despite having solid experience running a business, and a degree in PR, I still struggled to land a job outside food or retail.
How To Network Better
My breakthrough into the industry was unexpected. A professor I’d taken a PR writing course from nearly a decade earlier noticed my efforts to make a career switch through our connection on Twitter and LinkedIn. She reached out on my behalf to her wealth of contacts who could offer me job coaching and possible work opportunities.
I wasn’t always great at introducing myself to people, leading to social anxiety around networking. My connection with my previous professors helped me build my personal and professional network and allowed me to have conversations with industry professionals who could give me valuable advice on my job hunt.
So don’t worry, even if you aren’t sure what to do, you can still network. Lighten up on yourself and start having fun with it. What does this mean?
A Few Professional Networking Tips
Here are some important networking basics to consider:
- Shake hands and look people in the eye.
- Get as many people’s email addresses as possible (don’t be shy, just ask).
- Say something witty before or after you give your contact info.
- Have an engaging follow-up conversation (not overbearing, though).
Start with reaching out on social media or finding a local young professionals group and get your face out there. Get involved in the conversations where they are happening. If it is on social media, then share their content and maybe leave a comment on it. If it is an event, then just show up and speak with those around you. To make sure you don’t miss out, set up Google Alerts for keywords related to networking events near you and regularly check for new content about your industry. People will remember individuals who engage with them. While these basic networking tips can get you started, many people still struggle to create professional connections.
Engaging in networking can feel very transactional, with a lot of people trying to get something out of someone else. Some people will ask you for a favor and never talk to you again. But suppose you see networking not only as an opportunity for yourself but also to help others. In that case, you’ll find that your efforts will be rewarded in ways beyond your wildest imagination.
I’ve found that the best way to make these business connections and a lasting impression isn’t to network at all — it’s simply to be helpful and friendly without expecting anything in return. You’ll be amazed by how many good things you’ll receive just by having an open heart and being helpful.
Professional Networking: A Conclusion on Creating Connections
One of the best tools in your career arsenal is networking. Professional networking is a simple way to build relationships that lead to new opportunities, referrals and happy clients. The true value of connecting with others is not in how many people you meet or how many times you talk to a particular person — it’s about showing up with the right attitude and contributing something meaningful to the conversation so that others want to work with you.
I am always happy to share my thoughts, other networking tips and give advice if you need it. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you ever need advice — and follow Comprise for more industry-related content.