If the word networking automatically makes you sink into your office chair, you’re not alone. While it can be difficult to gain the courage to attend those frequently dreaded events, it’s integral to career advancement and can help you get ahead. It’s a perfect opportunity to make work events more effective, and trust me, will really help your career if you take the following steps to heart. There’s a certain skill to master, and luckily, one that anyone can learn. So how does one get comfortable with this foreign skill, and why does it even matter?
Know the people in the room
Arguably the best piece of advice when networking is to do your homework beforehand. If you walk into the event with a good understanding of who is in the room “ whether it’s predominantly coordinators, account managers, or vice presidents and directors “ it’s important to know where they’re at in their career and the companies they work for. If you’re connecting with coordinators you can ask questions like company culture and how they got into their roles. If you’re connecting with VP’s and directors you can ask questions like hiring processes or the best way to engage with the company, even if they aren’t hiring. If you have a general understanding of the companies and people in the room, you will have an advantage to start conversations based on relevant interests and knowledge.
Be engaged (and engaging)
No one wants to go up to the person at the event with their face in their phone. While it’s common to feel more comfortable face down, scrolling through your emails or instagram, you’re closing the door for future opportunities. If you’re present and engaged, there’s a greater chance someone will approach you to begin the conversation. And isn’t that more ideal than always being the one to introduce yourself?
Follow up before you need their help
Perhaps you got a few business cards at the latest event you were at, or maybe you have some people in your network you haven’t connected with in years. Networking works best if you keep the communication open, even if you don’t need them for anything. It never hurts to reach out to people whether they wrote an article that resonated with you, their company was nominated for something, or there was a shared common ground on a current event. If you get in touch with them before you need their help, it helps establish a natural relationship rather than something forced when you really need their help.
Connect with someone every week
Even if you don’t physically leave your house or office to network, a lot can be accomplished with a simple email. Leave some time in your week to connect with someone in your network “ whether it’s a former professor, employer, co-worker or classmate. Perhaps there’s someone within your company you’ve wanted to get in touch with. Make a note to send them a quick email asking to connect for a quick coffee “ but remember, keep it short (the coffee date and the email).
Even if you only pick up on one or two of these steps, the rest will start to flow more naturally the better you get at honing in on your craft. And just remember, even if you’re perfectly happy in your career, it never hurts to have some great connections in your back pocket.