Does making small talk with relative strangers make you feel uncomfortable, or maybe even a little phony? While some people have a natural aptitude for networking, others cringe at the mere thought of it. The good news is, over time and with practice, you can cultivate your own networking style.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, Networking is the process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Research shows that developing strong professional networks can lead to more job and business opportunities, an improved capacity to innovate, and faster advancement in your chosen career. Not to mention that building and nurturing professional relationships also increases overall job satisfaction.
Sounds like some great reasons to get past the cringe factor and start building your own networks. Here are some strategies to help get you started:
Know your why
It’s important for you to understand who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you’re heading. Often called your ‘elevator pitch’, your ability to speak comfortably and confidently about yourself will not only make people genuinely interested in you, it can also help in building lasting relationships. Rather than feeling daunted by others, believe you add value in what you bring by understanding your unique points.
Networking events can be mind over matter
If you hate the thought of networking, you’ve probably talked yourself out of attending an event or two in the past. Instead of telling yourself how much you don’t want to go, switch your focus to thinking about the positives.
Maybe someone from one of your classes will also be there. Perhaps you’ll boost your knowledge of an emerging trend in your chosen industry – which may come in handy in your next interview. Heck, maybe you’re just going for the drinks and nibbles!
By concentrating on the positives, attending networking events will begin to seem much more worthwhile.
Find a shared interest
Connecting with others can be easier if you’re able to think about how your interests and goals align with theirs. Not only can this help you initiate conversations, it can also help you forge meaningful working relationships.
If you’re attending an event, try to find out who else will be there and connect with them on LinkedIn. Once you’ve connected, you can have a look at the organisations and individuals they follow, the kinds of posts they share and create, and more about their background. You may find you have similar interests and backgrounds, which will make it easier to keep the conversation flowing in person.
Have a higher purpose
While you might think it’s just about helping you and your career progression, networking is ultimately about sharing. It’s about forming trust and identifying how you can assist others and who can potentially help you in return.
If you see a great graduate role that you think a classmate would be well-suited for, let them know; they’ll be flattered you thought of them and may have you to thank for helping them score their dream job. And who knows, they could return the favour one day.
Don’t miss the online Graduate Gateway – Networking session on Thursday 24 November. This workshop will assist you to build and maintain positive professional relationships.
Can’t make it next week? Book a spot anyway and we’ll send you a recording of the session afterwards.