Almost every leader and leadership source will advise that you invest time in networking, because it has a substantially higher return on investment than most other connective approaches. We certainly don't disagree, but we would suggest thinking about networking in a slightly different way.
Contrary to popular belief, think of networking as more than finding your next anything. Often it's about humbly and subtly making yourself better known or more accessible right where you are in your current job. You don't have to devote as much time as you think you do to attend organized networking events. But you do need to change your frame of mind if you think of networking as forced bonding. Try these 5 tips to make networking beneficial:
1. For once, avoid setting goals.
Can you remember a time when someone told you not to set any goals or objectives? The most worthwhile opportunities, experiences and relationships happen through purely organic conversation – conversations that can't have a predetermined agenda or discussion points. Show up to a networking event with an open mind and open ears. It'll take any unnecessary pressure off.
2. Always a firm handshake.
It's your first impression – and you only get one of them. Whether you're an 18-year-old young man or a polished young woman mid-career, a firm handshake says a lot about who you are. It shows confidence, openness, extraversion and interest. If you tend to be so focused on nailing the handshake that you forget the name of the person you're talking to, remember to repeat the name back. For example:
"Hello, I'm John."
"Hello, John, I'm Erica. Nice to meet you."
3. Focus less on your talk.
Listen more. You'll likely leave an even better impression as a great listener versus dominating the conversation. Avoid thinking of responses in your head as the other person is talking to you. That's when you miss out on the most important details of the story being told. When you take a deep breath and quiet your thoughts, you'll be able to listen intently and respond organically.
4. Be genuinely interested and helpful. Networking isn't all about you.
What information can you share or what can you provide to the person you're connecting with that will actually benefit them? If you're truly genuine and helpful, they won't be able to forget you.
5. Show your personal brand.
Don't sell it. Ever wonder why people try so hard to sell something to you? Don't they realize that the quality of the product sells itself? Same applies to you. No need to try so hard to prove who you are or to show off what you do. Simply be your true, authentic self and others will want to voluntarily learn more about you.
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