Whether you are involved in a summer program or not, networking is the most important part of growing a successful business and career. It often strikes fear and dread into the hearts of those who have no skills, tools or experience doing it. How does one get better at it? Here are some suggestions.
- First, networking is really nothing more than using the opportunity when people get together to exchange information and ideas. The social setting could be casual or by design, either one-on-one or in a group. It's about feeling comfortable with explaining who you are, what you do and where you want to go, to someone else. You give them a quick, concise overview of yourself in 15-30 seconds.
- Don't assume that you are the only one feeling ill at ease when networking. Give others an opportunity to get comfortable with you too. You are here to share information and build relationships. There is no "them vs. me", making them into adversaries and making you feel you have to defend yourself by getting all emotional.
- Get good at asking others questions to get them to talk about themselves; everyone loves to talk about themselves. Your main job then is to simply listen without making comments in your head, or wandering off into your own thoughts. You may learn that they have a connection or skill you are looking for that will move your career forward or perhaps you have a skill or ability that might be used as barter in obtaining their help.
- Be well read and up on current events so you can carry on an intelligent and interesting conversation. ( Easily done by reading the Times online or looking for interesting articles on subjects other than music and singing.)
- Having an agenda when you enter a networking situation is important.
- Representing and presenting your own authentic and distinct Personal Brand at all times is always a good start. That means carrying your business cards at all time so you can exchange them with others and keep your web site updated. Once you are home, follow up with a quick “enjoyed meeting you” email. Go knowing what you want to accomplish.
Networking can be easy and fun if you can get your head around making the conversation more about others than worrying about yourself. You get to exchange information (career or otherwise) and use the opportunity to build important and lasting relationships.
A couple of DON'TS:
- Never approach a twosome talking. This is usually a personal conversation. Try someone who appears to be alone or a group of three or more. Don't sit down unless you really need to. For most people this is a signal that you don't want to be bothered. Stay up and keep moving.
- There are two subjects that should never be discussed in a social setting - religion & politics. These subjects are too personal and often engage our emotions in a negative and defensive way.
Get comfortable and feel confident with "Networking”, by putting these suggestions to use. As you know, practice makes permanent. Remember the heart of any business is the human connection; the relationships one creates and maintains. Networking can and often does happen anytime, anywhere. It's something you already do all the time every day, so start paying attention to how you do what you do and see if you want to incorporate some of that experience into Networking. Keep your old and new relationships updated when there is career news to share with them. Once that communications door has been opened, keep it open. Avanti!