Presented in partnership with Naseba.
Let’s face it: meeting people outside of the social space can be a hit or major miss.
Networking events can be one of the scariest parts of being in the workforce. After all, you typically have to be in a cramped space trying to make small talk with people you don’t know, all in the hopes of making better connections for later on. We’re here to change all that, though.
This year, we partnered with Naseba to give you the ultimate ticket to fast-track your career – plus we’re sharing our top tips around how to make the most of networking. Scroll to the bottom to check out our giveaway, where one lucky reader can win a $995 ticket to the 2017 WIL Economic Forum to jumpstart their professional life. Good luck!
Here’s the link to the giveaway.
1. Always, always, always give before you receive.
One of the biggest networking mistakes people make is jumping the gun when asking for a favor. One cardinal key of successful networking: Give before you can get. So think of networking like a bank account—you have to make deposits and shore up social capital before making a withdrawal. Immediately add value: how can you help them? What can you offer them? Take the time to learn their goals, and then work to help them achieve those goals – no matter how scrappy you need to be to do so.
2. Instead of trying to connect with everyone, work to connect in an authentic way.
Focus on the person across from you – not on yourself. Everything you do signals who you are and what you stand for, and this move signals that you have empathy. Take the time to figure out who the “keepers” are in your network, by asking yourself a few questions: Are they generous and do they keep their word? Do your values match? Are there any yellow flags? If so, run – don’t walk. As Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
3. Most networking events are a waste of time – so choose wisely.
I wish someone told me this years ago before I put down money to enter those events. You know which ones I’m talking about: there’s a half-hearted introduction to the day by the host/ess, then everyone goes back to eating food and staying with the friends they came to the event with. You meet maybe one person if that, and leave disappointed and tired. Instead of that, get in the right room. Where do the people you want to network with hang out? Go places where there are people smarter than you and have the resources you need in order to be able to achieve your goals.
4. Understand that everyone’s probably feeling as awkward as you are.
Do you ever go to an event or a conference and just look around the room? While you probably see lots of people talking to each other, you will also probably see several people sitting at tables looking through the event guide or talking on their phones. These people are probably nervous about talking to new people, so they are avoiding it by looking busy. You can help these people by introducing yourself. See, they probably want to approach total strangers, but they just find it hard to break the ice. You can come along and make life a little easier for them, which could lead to some interesting opportunities.
5. If you’re trying to get an “in” with someone specific, do it carefully.
Stalk them–gently. Scour the company website. Search for local and national news stories about the firm. Identify that one person (the asset), preferably a sharp, hungry someone well short of the C-suite, but whose star is on the rise. Start with her bio, then dig deeper. You can learn more than you think from Twitter and Instagram feeds: Think food porn and article postings don’t matter? Study those, and you learn what really matters to someone. This might sound weird, but you’ve probably done it once or twice before in other circumstances – you’re just being smart about how you’re approaching the situation.
6. Drop the small talk – nobody really wants to talk about the weather, anyway.
After that initial “hey!” it’s okay to be yourself. Ask the other person what their goals are, instead of asking them what their job is. Share your dreams, goals, and challenges – and then ask how you can help them. It might take your contact by surprise, but her answers will tell you a story. Stories lead to a real conversation – and that real conversation leads to a sincere connection. During the conversation, know that your efforts won’t work if you aren’t being sincere. Always keep your eyes trained on the person across from you, put your phone away, and listen intently.
7. Pull – never, ever push.
Networking is all about conversation. It is also about finding out more about the other person than telling them about you or your company. Napoleon Hill tells a story about how he went to a dinner party, and afterward, the hostess thought he was the most charming man in the world. Why? Not because he talked about himself, but because he kept the conversation focused on the hostess by asking her questions. You have to earn the right to be heard about what you do and what you want to accomplish. People really don’t care about what you do until they know that you care about what they do. So, don’t push a conversation. Instead, gently pull on it by asking people about themselves.
I can tell you the number of times I’ve sat down with an aspiring entrepreneur or media personality, only to be bored to tears forty-five minutes later with their stories. Don’t make it about you. Make it about the both of you.