Professional Development Tips: Networking
Networking…Let’s face it, the phrase triggers sweaty palms, uneasiness, and nervous butterflies for even the most extroverted people. Networking requires everyone to get out of their comfort zone and SELL themselves – something most college seniors haven’t yet had to do before entering the workforce. To make matters worse, networking usually involves conversing with people you don’t know with the added pressure of landing the job of your dreams. I know what you’re thinking, networking is so intimidating, right? Wrong. It doesn’t have to be that way!
In today’s landscape, networking is necessary for growth and development, especially as a young professional. The ability to utilize connections, either through LinkedIn or another network can pave the way for new opportunities along your professional and personal journeys. Yes, networking forces you to be bold and outgoing particularly when it comes to speaking with powerful people. Because of this though, you get the chance to share your story and learn something from a peer or role model, making networking incredibly worthwhile. Here are four tips that can help you make for great connections:
Being authentic can be very challenging, especially when you’re meeting someone new. Despite not knowing one another, don’t try too hard to impress them, let the conversation flow naturally. Be true to yourself and try to enjoy your discussion. If you can tell the connection isn’t a fit, that’s not something to be discouraged about, you’re learning to read interpersonal cues and that’s great insight to gain!
Talking too much isn’t bad, if you add value
Everyone tells you not to talk too much when networking and there is some truth to that. When you are doing the majority of the talking, it can be easy to get derailed and lose the other person’s interest. However, when it’s appropriate, explaining yourself in a way that adds value to the conversation and has a purpose will capture someone’s attention.
Having eye contact is the ultimate sign of respect. Looking someone in the eye shows that you are giving your full attention to what that person is saying and validating that their point of view is worthwhile and valuable to you.
Think about how your beliefs and interests align with the people you meet. Listen intently to what others say and, when the timing is right, insert yourself into the conversation, recall what others have said, and tie in how your personality matches and affirms those beliefs. Finding common ground shows compassion and empathy which are both are traits that others gravitate towards.
As scary as networking can be, it’s one of the most important activities you’ll do throughout your professional career. It’s crazy to think about, but you’ll be networking for the rest of your life – Connecting with friends, work colleagues, or your relatives. Networking will be a large part of how start building relationships with others.
As you embark on your own networking journey, take the time to contemplate the interactions you have with others and add your findings to this list! As I reflect upon how I thought about networking prior to Orr Fellowship as compared to my thoughts now, I can only thank Orr for giving me the confidence to put myself out there and connect with others. Through Orr, I’ve been able to have insightful conversations with prominent business leaders in the Indianapolis area. These people are an inspiration to me and have had a huge impact on my personal and professional development. I plan to continue utilizing and enhancing my own networking skills as I work towards becoming one of them.