BreakingModern — Networking is a great way to make yourself known to people in your industry and get work referrals. But it’s something that’s dreaded by lots of people, and many have given up completely after some bad experiences.
When I ran a cleaning business I didn’t network because I had plenty of work through word of mouth. But then I sold out, trained as a business advisor and needed to make my name in a completely different market.
I was apprehensive about getting out there and meeting new people, but through trial and error I learned to network more effectively. Here are my tried-and-tested tips for pain-free networking.
- Ever signed up for an event in a fit of enthusiasm and then started to look for excuses not to attend? Don’t pay any attention to that voice of doubt. Put it out of your mind and show up anyway. I’ve never regretted the decision, even when I genuinely thought I was too busy to attend.
- If you can’t bear the idea of staying for the full event, give yourself a time limit. Invent a fictitious commitment if necessary. Giving yourself this permission helps you enjoy it more, and you might find out you’re just fine to stay longer.
Make life easier by going to a networking event with a friend or business contact — but make sure you are disciplined enough to split up once there. It’s easier to keep chatting to someone you know, but it wastes an opportunity to meet new people.
If you go alone, do some research beforehand and think of a person or company you’d like to connect with. Ask the person who is greeting arrivals to introduce you to that person or group and have a topic of conversation ready.
There’s so much talk going on at a networking meeting that it can be difficult not to be distracted by other conversations. Don’t be a meerkat and keep looking over the shoulder of the person you’re talking to. Stay focused.
You may dread being left on your own when everyone else is talking in groups of two and three. It just gets worse the longer you stand there, so be brave — don’t rush to hide in the toilet. Approach a group and join in. Joining a group of three strangers is better than two, as one of the group is likely to be feeling a bit left out and will be glad to speak to you.
On the other hand you may hate being stuck with the same person after you’ve run out of interesting conversation. No need to get stranded. Just tell them how much you’ve enjoyed meeting them and say you mustn’t monopolize them. Perhaps even ask them to introduce you to someone else.
Networking is intimidating for most people, but it’s perfectly possible to become good at it and even enjoy it! It takes a while to feel comfortable and to start reaping the rewards of meeting higher-profile people and referrals, so stick at it — you never know what the results might be.
For BMod, I’m Judy Heminsley
Image credits: © kasto / Dollar Photo Club