Bring the word “networking” into a conversation and ask a person to say the first few words that comes to mind. Most people will say “important” quickly followed by “uncomfortable” or “cheesy” or “nerve wracking.” Good networking is vital to career and professional success but it does not have to be disingenuous or feel uncomfortable.
Follow these five steps to have a positive and repeatable networking experience.
Tip #1 For A Positive Networking Experience – Why Am I Networking? People network for a variety of reasons. Professionals’ network to get others interested to sell their product or service, to gain insight into a hiring decision, to find out more about different career paths, or to gather feedback on their own entrepreneurial ideas. Understanding why you are networking is vital so you can advance your career and personal goals. If you are having a conversation about entrepreneurship with corporate accountants – it will be a hard conversation. Instead, look for locations and events where other entrepreneurs gather to get positive connections and information. Likewise, if you desire a corporate position, look and attend events with those types of attendees and audience members.
Tip #2 For A Positive Networking Experience – What Type Of Networking Environment Do I Like. In networking, there is no wrong answer for a networking environment. Some people love a large room where they can find lots of different people for lots of quick, immediate and positive conversations. If large crowds make you uncomfortable, then look for others at the fringes of the room and have smaller, quieter conversations. If networking at large events is not your preference, then meet others for a cup of coffee or schedule a phone call for a one-on-one conversation. The central point is to find your environmental comfort area with your personal preference. If you hate networking in crowds, then don’t. Instead, network in small groups, phone calls, and one-on-one meetings that suit your style.
Tip #3 For A Positive Networking Experience – Keep The Conversation Informative, Positive, and Light. Networking conversations can go astray and become uncomfortable when you start with, “How can I get hired this month at your company,” or “Why did the CEO make THAT person a VP? Was that a good move?” Instead, keep the conversation around industry trends, recent positive business developments, or a new innovation that is sweeping the industry. These conversations that are universal, light, and engaging are helpful to all people, and get others comfortable speaking with you. In addition, asking others questions and fully listening to their answers helps settle any nerves and makes the other person’s response feel valued.
Tip #4 For A Positive Networking Experience – Make A LinkedIn or Twitter Connection for Follow Up. Connecting on Facebook which tends to be a more personal medium especially for older people can be a little to forward. Instead, follow them on Twitter or on LinkedIn. Twitter and LinkedIn are professional, easily accessible, and built for professional networking. Try and make these connections as quickly as possible to ensure that you are remembered and to arrange a follow up meeting or conversation.
Tip #5 For A Positive Networking Experience – Follow Up In Private On The Preferred Medium. Great networking is all about the follow up. Most people have a preferred follow up. Each individual values their time differently so some prefer phone calls, text, in person, or email. Try and discover how the person wants to communicate. Some people prefer the phone because the last thing they want is another email. The central point is that you have to adapt to the other person’s follow up style to get and maintain the connection.
Overcome your fear of networking by understanding why you network, choose an environment that you are comfortable, keep the conversation light & informative, make a LinkedIn connection, and follow up with the other person’s preferred communication medium. Networking is great to advance your goals when you do it in a way that makes you comfortable and confident.
Share some of your ideas on how you overcame the fear of networking.
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Blogger Bio: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 230 articles in over 110 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics. Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University. Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com.