Networking can be an intimidating task, especially for those job seekers just entering the market. One of the most common questions career coaches receive relate to the best strategies for networking. While there are a litany of tips that abound on the internet and in other career building resources, these strategies aren’t usually very effective. Therefore, the best advice for successful networking is, essentially, the same advice for anyone looking to meet new people in general. This advice is as follows:
Your smile is the first thing that people see when they look at you, and it should make a definite impression. Think of your smile as your best accessory – it is the first thing that you put on and the way in which you present it says so much about you as a person.
Smiling warmly allows you to give off good vibes and positive energy, and makes you more approachable to strangers. The best thing about smiling is that it is free, easy, and requires no effort on your part! Whether you have just started a new job, moved into a new neighborhood, or are just looking to meet new people, a smile and good attitude are the keys to making friends and getting to know people.
2. Remember, people aren’t interested in you, they’re interested in themselves
Now, that may sound harsh, but let’s be honest, it’s human nature. Dale Carnegie said it best:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”
This actually makes meeting people easier because it alleviates the pressure of starting a conversation with your own interesting personal information. All you really have to do is ask the people about themselves. The more you can get others to open up to you about who they are, the better connection you will be able to make with them. Try asking questions like:
- How did you come to choose this career path?
- What was the best thing you did this weekend?
- Why did you decide to live in this area/work for this company/join this group?
Of course, there are many different options for this – the most important thing is that you are able to strike up a conversation. Listen well, and add input where needed. This allows you to not only get to know the person, but also to become a better conversationalist.
3. Remember names
This one may sound like a given, but its importance cannot be overlooked. How many times have you gone through an entire conversation and at the end realized that you had no idea what the person’s name was? Or worse, how many times have you gone to speak to someone and realized that they had no idea what your name was? This is the ultimate networking faux pas. In order to avoid this situation, use the following tips:
• Repeat the person’s name back to them
• Commit it to memory using a cue (“Shana has pretty eyes” or “Whitney had on killer shoes!”)
• Write it down (back of their business card is best UNLESS you are dealing with someone of a different culture – then err on the side of sensitivity)
4. Finally, know where to go
How can you meet successfully meet new people if you don’t know where to go? Maybe you aren’t beginning a new job, or you haven’t moved – you can still find new and interesting people if you know where to look.
Why not try joining a new club, group or class? Some options could be: your local YP organization, a book club or other interest group, Toastmasters, a volunteer agency, or a continuing education class (cooking, photography, pottery, etc.). Any of these options will give you ample opportunity in a relaxed setting to meet and interact with others.
All of these are tips to help you find success in your networking on a personal and professional level. Of course, through all of these, don’t forget to let everyone get to know you too! You are a great person with plenty to offer – so get out there and show ‘em what you’ve got!