For Those Who Hate The Idea Of Networking
Very often, I hear people throwing around the term networking. You must network. Networking is important. Networking is how to REALLY get a job. All these things are true, to an extent, but it is even more crucial to truly understand what networking is and how it can be of benefit
When people think of networking, they imagine a room in a corporate building with big windows and a table full of drinks (usually water and some alcoholic beverages). Everyone is wearing their Sunday best. You’ll find some people cackling loudly, while others are deep in conversation and in the corner is …you, terrified to speak to anyone because you feel like you have little to offer.
“Networking is interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts” - our trusty friend Google.
Networking is much simpler than that. To network effectively, you should aim to develop a meaningful relationship with the people with whom you’d like to network with. This can happen anywhere: a workspace, a bar, a restaurant, on the tube, on tinder (yes, you read correctly), in places of worship, in the gym …okay, I think you get the idea.
Let us get into the nitty-gritty of networking now.
How do you network?
1. Ask people about themselves.
Everyone loves to talk about themselves, how important they are and how transformational their projects are. Listen to what they are saying and ask questions about the things they’ve mentioned or even better, relate it to something that you do or something you’ve read/watched/listened to. WOW, is that a conversation I can see starting? Amazing.
Most people don’t have time for superficial conversations and you will find yourself getting bored of having them (I can talk from experience). This is why it is important to talk to people who you want to talk to, as opposed to people who you feel like you should be talking to. This allows you to be, and stay, genuinely interested in the people that you meet.
2. It’s important to be super aware of who you are.
Always be ready to answer the questions “who are you?” and “what do you do?”. You’re never JUST a student or JUST a trainee or JUST doing an internship. Give yourself more credit. This is an important piece of advice because I know so many people (often women) that do themselves a disservice when they’re asked to talk about themselves, whilst other less qualified people can speak about themselves til’ Kingdom come. If you’re reading this and you’re feeling triggered …good!
You’ll be surprised by how many people want to find out more about you. It is also important to think about what you can offer and what you want for the future. You never know who you’re talking to or who they might be able to put you in contact with, even if it is not immediately.
3. Do your research (for more formal settings)
If you know who is going to be there, do a little online stalking. When you meet Tim Jim, WHO YOU’VE RESEARCHED you can drop knowledge about the things that they have done and that will make them automatically more impressed, which means if it is a job you want, they’ll be more inclined to want to help you because you’ve not only stroked his their ego but you’ve been proactive. AMAZING 10 points to Gryffindor!
4. Follow up.
This is the most important bit. If you get the business card of someone you actually want to speak to again then you will need to actually message them. Tell them thank you, tell them how much you enjoyed the conversation and most importantly, why it was a pleasure to meet them. If you want to meet up with them then arrange to do so. You should not wait more than 24 hours to contact someone. The longer you wait, the easier it is for them to forget you.
This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it the only way to approach networking. But what I can say is that it has been tried and tested …by me. Focus on just having a meaningful conversation, follow the 4 steps and you’ll be fighting off opportunities in no time.
A general life hack: As someone who has avoided reading anything for most of my young life, I have come to realise how important it is to be well-read and to keep up with current affairs. It has allowed me to contribute more value to conversations and I have been able to find more things in common with the people that I have met, based on things I have read. Oh, and it also has all these benefits.