I get it, networking can be pretty daunting! I used to see networking much like doing laundry, all the reasons why I should do it kept piling up, yet I kept postponing it for later.
Depending on your personality type, networking can seem like a very nerve-racking task; however, I am here to tell you that it certainly does not have to be! One common mistake I see a lot of people make is waiting until they back on the job hunt to start networking (smh).
So how to get started?
Well, the first thing to do is determine what it is you are trying to get out of networking? Are you looking for your next job opportunity? Are you merely trying to gain industry insight by connecting with experts in your field? Perhaps you are looking for a mentor. There are endless benefits that can result from networking. However, to make the most of it is crucial to ensure you have a clear goal in mind. Once your goal is clear, I would recommend finding topics that interest and motivate you. Seek out professional groups that share these common interests and sign up for their events. Keep in mind that volunteering can also be an excellent channel for networking! Attending professional conferences and summits are a good option as well; however, I would suggest starting with smaller local events first. I will be writing another piece on how to network at large conferences and summits.
How to introduce yourself.
Okay, so this is that part the most people find difficult, and I get it. Talking to random strangers can be awkward. Guess what? IT'S OKAY. Get used to those awkward and uncomfortable moments, you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and only growth can result from that! (drops mic) This part of networking is an area we all get better at the more we do it, so don't feel bad if the first couple of attempts don't go as planned. One useful approach to initiating a conversation is to look approachable. Avoid being on your phone the entire event; your tweet can wait. Also, remember to make eye contact. You don't want to make people feel uncomfortable approaching you. It's always safe to start with a quick introduction of yourself, followed by a question. Ensure you provide a good handshake, listen when the person is talking, make eye contact, and don't forget to get their business card or contact information before leaving!
This is a critical step. Ensure to follow-up with your new contact promptly. Please don't wait for a month to pass before you send an e-mail, a LinkedIn request, or a follow-up text. Remember, this is not a one-way road. Taking the time to build meaningful relationships requires you also to add value to that connection. Also, sharing relevant articles, titles you recently read, or new ideas is a great way to keep the conversation going with your new connection!