Everyone seems to know that networking is important, but what is networking, and how can collegiate and young professionals do it?
If the word “networking” has you thinking of sleazy, insincere schmoozing, you should reconsider. Networking is building mutually beneficial relationships that can lead to information and opportunities. Networking is essential for developing your career and personal life and for getting work done effectively. Here are some tips courtesy of Alaina G. Levine, author of Networking for Nerds, who presented at the WE14 Collegiate Leadership Institute.
Be generous. Whenever you meet someone for the first time, think about how you can help him/her. In the big picture, your relationship is a potential partnership.
- Focus on passions. What are both of you really interested in? Bonus: you will become a reminder of things the person enjoys.
- Stay in touch. This can be especially useful for college students who graduate and move away from friends and co-workers. Simple messages on social media, emails of useful information or videos, or holiday cards can help maintain relationships.
- Keep an open mind. Plenty of people outside of your company and outside of your profession can be valuable connections, so cast a broad net. Find people with common interests from the activities and meetings for things you enjoy.
- Be strategic. When at a party or other networking opportunity, set a goal to meet 10-15 people you may want to partner with and exchange contact info. Leave the business talks for a time after the party. However, remember to be in a professional mindset, i.e. not excessively drinking or eating.
- Be bold. Stepping out of your comfort zone when it comes to networking may be uncomfortable but definitely worth it. Having the courage to tell a new acquaintance, “I would love to work with you, and I have something to offer,” is a great advantage. Introducing yourself to strangers gets easier with practice. You may even consider hosting your own networking event, which encourages you to talk to all the guests and puts the focus on you as someone who takes initiative.
Source: Minda Zetlin. 9 Secrets to Effective Networking, Even If You’re a Nerd. Dec 16, 2014. Retrieved at http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/9-secrets-to-effective-networking-even-if-you-re-a-nerd.html.