Networking…even just the word can make some people’s skin crawl. How would you describe networking? Do you think it’s:
- A waste of time
I hear you.
It’s funny. I am a huge believer in networking (ask anyone who has ever spent five minutes with me – I will be talking about the importance of LinkedIn and networking), but I too can think of it using those words. It depends on my mood and if I am tired or hungry.
But here’s what I think. To me, networking is a natural and organic process. It is just starting a conversation with someone and getting to hear their story. Everyone has one. When you take the time to listen to someone, you can see a connection. That connection is networking.
Some networking lessons learned:
A couple of weeks ago I attended a networking event. Here’s my top 10 list of things I learned:
Pay attention to where the event is being held. My first mistake – I didn’t read the description carefully enough. I figured it was going to be at the same place as the first networking event of the series. I was wrong.
Figure out how to get there. Second mistake…I was so confident that I knew where the event was going to be held that I drove to and parked at the completely wrong place. (Luckily it was a 15 minute walk and the rain held off.)
Listen to yourself. I finally found the place (whew) and opened the door. I was bombarded by the cacophony of men in business suits. I felt vastly out of place and immediately stepped out of the room. I closed the door and breathed.
Avoid breakfast events. That’s not necessarily true. I am a member of a business breakfast club and I really enjoy that experience. But I just did not like the plate of meat that was put in front of me, and I was concerned that the scrambled eggs weren’t cooked enough. So for all of those people who have dietary restrictions, breakfast meetings can be a little bit challenging.
Don’t just immediately hand out your business or networking card the moment you meet someone. Remember what I wrote about listening to people and hearing their stories? That is what you need to do before you just present your card – that is very presumptuous. People rarely like presumptuousness.
Make sure you bring your networking or business card. This should be a given, but you would be surprised by the amount of people who don’t remember to bring theirs.
Do you have a card? The answer should ALWAYS be yes!
Get a networking card. Not working? Looking for a job? Just graduated? Perfect. Check Vista Print and get a very reasonable quote for some of these very important cards. Here’s what you need to include on your card: you name, your phone number, your email address, your Twitter handle, your LinkedIn url and on the other side, include your top three (or more if they fit) skills that you can contribute to an organization.
Remember to breathe. Believe it or not, a lot of people are probably just as anxious as you are.
Create a goal for yourself. Decide that you want to meet one, two or maybe even five people. Like all other SMART goals, make sure it is a realistic goal. Start low – one person. Then, when you see someone standing alone (because trust me, there will always be someone standing there alone) go up to them and simply say “Hi, I’m Tonya” (well, don’t say that…unless your name is Tonya, then go for it…but if it’s not Tonya, use your name.) Nothing fancy, schmancy…just your own name.
Be yourself. Just be yourself. Don’t be fake or phony.
Stay tuned for next week as we look at natural and organic networking – you may even breathe a sigh of relief.