Today’s blog post is all about NETWORKING.
And why did I decide to speak on it now?
Well, for starters, I attended an empowerment brunch today – which meant having to interact with many people – and let’s just say for an introvert, that’s not always a simple task.
Ironically, I am an introvert with an extrovert’s career (media) and in this field, it is all about networking.
How else do I expect to report on stories, people to purchase my book – which will be released this October – (see what I did there? Shameless plug) Get persons to read my blogs, and so on, if I did not NETWORK.
In fact, growing up as an only child and being big on isolation in order to build self, large social engagements have never really been my ‘thing’. More so, for over a decade I’ve been told by friends, “how do you expect to meet your future husband if you don’t go out Kay?” But that’s a different story for a different blog – I digress.
The common denominator here, is that although networking has not always been an easy pill for me to swallow and it continues to be a learning experience, the fact remains, when pursuing your dreams and building a brand, networking is KEY.
So let’s get into it.
What exactly does ‘Networking’ entail?
Believe it or not, networking is something we are already doing every day. It simply means we are interacting. Whether you chat with a stranger in line at Starbucks, or you go out to dinner with friends, you are networking.
When you are interacting with a focus – the essence of networking – (E.g, Finding a new job), the name of the game is to expose yourself to as many connections as possible, be open to creating and capitalizing on opportunities to share your ideas, craft and interests, with the mindset that you will meet like-minded people or those in positions to help you and vice versa.
For extroverts, networking can come in handy because meeting new people recharges them since they usually lose their energies when left alone. On the other end of the spectrum, introverts, like myself, thrive when time is spent alone, and so people are usually the ones who drain our energies, thus socializing requires much more effort.
No matter which category you may fall into today, this blog post is for you.
Here are some tips that can help you to NETWORK.
- SET YOUR GOALS
You know that moment in the movie when the teenage boy crush comes over to take the girl on a date and the parents sit him down and ask the nerve wrecking question, “What are your intentions?”
Well, how about we begin doing the same to ourselves. Before attending a networking event, ask yourself what are your intentions? What do you want to achieve or what kind of people do you wish to meet? This will help your decisions about which events to attend. If you desire to become an entrepreneur in a particular field, then you will most likely choose events surrounding that field.
2. THERE ARE STUPID QUESTIONS
You know the saying “there’s no such thing as a stupid question?” It’s a myth. I’m pretty sure you’ve been asked some ‘stupid’ questions before, haven’t you?
Well, when it comes to networking, how about writing down some questions you’ll like to ask others. Try to find out some details about their careers, passions or any other topic that you can benefit from. It makes no sense getting all dressed up and finally ‘going out’ to only be silent and return home haven’t learnt or gained anything at all. The purpose of a social gathering is to be – social, duh. So put in that extra effort into having at least three questions prepared with the intention of making at least three new connections at the end.
3. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Once you find the courage and energy to attend an event (where you know the people expected to also be there) how about looking them up – C’mon you already cyber stalk your best friend’s potential boyfriend’s brother’s page. Why not find out the bio of the persons going to this event, especially if it’s a speaking engagement with a public figure who already has a bio for public record online. The purpose of this is not to gain experience in stalking but rather to find common ground.
Look up their passions, work experience or even hobbies. Get common ground so that way you’ll have something (or things) to speak out and break the ice when you do meet in person. This is also advised when applying for jobs. Going into an interview room requires more than just a spotless CV, but having done your thorough research on the organization you’re applying to can give you the upper hand as well.
4. BE YOURSELF
I know you’ve probably heard this a million times that it has become cliché, however it is true, especially when networking.
Because people can tell when you’re being fake, so if you find out that the person is interested in neuroscience and you’ve only ever done Integrated Science up until age 15, do not pretend to know it all. In fact, the beauty about networking is that you not only connect with like-minded people, but you will also be able to meet people whom you have completely opposite interests with and so it can be a learning experience for you both. Don’t change to please anyone. Staying true to your goals and field of interest can inspire others as well.
5. TIMING IS EVERYTHING
When going to an event, plan your time carefully so you can arrive early and talk with people before the event has actually started. This way, you can identify and select people to talk to and start a conversation with a smaller groups of people. So if you’re not an early bird or even an on-time bird, now would be the perfect time to get some practice.
6. YOU DON’T GOTTA DO IT ALONE
These things can be awkward especially if it’s your first time, so why not tag a friend along too (that way if you’re not having any success socializing with others, you won’t look like a loner in public.) Having company/support will also make you feel more comfortable and less stressed when interacting with others.
7. BE PRESENT!
Do not get distracted trying to do too much at once. Yes we encourage you to initiate short conversations with as many people as people but keep the more in-depth ones for the few people that actually interest you.
That way after all is said and done, you’ll remember exactly who these new connections are and you’ll be able to do the right follow-ups and not mix up anyone.
You can smile and show openness so others can feel comfortable to approach you. Thinking too much about what to say when you first interact with someone new may be stressful. It is not necessary to find something very clever — first interactions are all about small (but proactive) talk and casual topics but remained focused on these convos.
8. FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS
Networking is about connecting with people, but you do that better through meaningful conversations, I get it. For those of us who absolutely repulse small talk, focus on being a listener instead. Instead of having to make up small talk, just do the listening. Other people may appreciate that strength in you. And remember it’s not always about telling everyone about your great ideas, it’s about learning from others as well. You never know who you may come across.
9. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
It really doesn’t matter how many people you end up sharing your business card with (p.s. If you don’t have any go design one now.) Or how many numbers you’ve exchanged with others. The key is leaving these networking events with people of quality. Those that you want to build a future with – career or otherwise.
It is about re-creating your circle and that doesn’t have to be a big one to be a strong one. So what, if the event had 100 people, all you really need are three solid contacts. This does not mean that you limit yourself to only speaking to a few, but having gone through the experience, keep in mind that your aim is to form strong connection, energy, and vibe not numbers,
10. YOU’RE YOU & THAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER – so talk about it,
The person in front of you may be interested in these topics and your connection will be deeper. I know, I know having an entire convo about yourself seems narcissistic but there are a lot of people who will be intrigued by who the real you are, so don’t keep him/her hidden. Do not be afraid to tell others about yourself, reveal your skills, plans and especially accomplishments. Remember people came there to meet you too. Not just the other way around.
11. SHARE KNOWLEDGE & CONNECTIONS
Which leads to this next point. It is perfectly okay, in fact it is recommended that you choose topics related to your industry to expand on instead of only asking about someone else’s. Feel free to share your knowledge and connections with others. You have nothing to lose but sharing what you know. This will help make the relationship stronger too. In addition to gaining, keep in mind that you can also provide value to the other person.
12. FOLLOW UP! FOLLOW UP! FOLLOW UP!
It’s important to keep the momentum and contact the person that you wish to collaborate with no later than a few days after you met. Don’t let your connections go cold. You did attend a networking event and that cost you time, money and effort. It would be a shame to let all of these things go to waste. Be brave enough to ask for their contact and build a relationship via e-mail or social media.
Now, I know this list may seem like a lot. But don’t get the wrong idea, there’s no fixed formula to this. Of course, manners and etiquette are important, but authenticity is the best ingredient. Remember networking can come in any form, whether it’s a large seminar or just two random people meeting unexpectedly. It’s also not a job interview so you don’t have to be so uptight.
Just have an open mind when attending any form of social gathering, be your honest self, say what you think, listen carefully, exchange information and contacts and watch the rest work itself out.
Odds are you won’t be the only awkward or scared person at these events. Not everyone you meet will be enthusiastic, confident or a people person and that’s ok. It just means that we’re all in this together and you owe yourself a token for even making it this far.
Now enough time has been spent inside reading this post, it’s time to go out there and connect with other great minds! See you again same time next week!
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