Networking 101: Tips and Mistakes To Avoid
Networking can be a daunting experience for many people. Sometimes in order to kickstart your networking process you just need some advice to get started. With the common saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” ringing true, the best way to meet new people as it relates to your career is through networking.
This does not have to be an intimidating experience. If you think about it as a way to reach your dream job, it is something that you can become quite good at especially since it is literally just talking to people. When thought of in that sense, it doesn’t seem so bad, does it? The best part is, networking is usually free!
Through technology such as social media and email, networking has become easier than ever. As a young professional just starting out in a career an important networking tool is the informational interview. It might seem awkward at first to send a blind email or message via Twitter/LinkedIn, etc. asking someone if they have a few minutes to discuss their career path and give any advice, but the worst thing the individual can say is “no.” However, people generally want to help because they were once in your shoes trying to start a career.
Even though it is essentially just starting conversations with professionals, the act of networking is still anxiety-inducing for many people. Some start going through scenarios in their head as to what they’re going to say, or worry about a handshake, etc. The key is being confident and practicing.
As is the case with anything that you are just starting at, you are going to make mistakes. While it is not the end of the world if you mess up, viewing it as a learning experience will help you become a better person, and in this case, a better networker. Our friends at snagajob came up with the top five networking mistakes, that if avoided can help you in the long run.
Don’t limit your networking to certain events only. The great part about networking is that you can do it anytime, anywhere. The key takeaway here is stepping out of your comfort zone and practicing.
Talking about yourself all the time
When people get nervous, they tend to monopolize the entire conversation. By taking an interest in the other person or people, you will get more out of the experience.
Expecting a job
While networking can certainly open doors which could lead to a job in the future, you should never have any expectations from networking other than meeting a new person. The main goal is making a connection that you did not previously have, thus expanding your circle.
Networking is commonly done amongst professionals, so while you might feel awkward and not exactly know what to talk about, the conversation should be kept appropriate. A rule of thumb is to not talk about anything that you would not discuss with your grandparents.
Not saying thanks (and following up)
Two words that go a lot farther than you think – “Thank you.” Another way to show that you appreciate making the connection is to send a hand-written thank you card. This gesture goes above and beyond and many people usually do not expect a thank you card after meeting one time. However, if that person is hiring in the future and is considering candidates, he or she might think of you based on your follow up.
Early on in our careers we are constantly reminded the importance of networking. While it might get old to hear this phrase over and over, continuing to establish professional relationships is of utmost importance when starting a career, as they will certainly come into play down the line. While networking might not lead to a job right off the bat, it is very possible that a connection you have made will open up a door to you that otherwise might not have been available without forging that relationship. Although it can be awkward at first, it is a skill that will benefit you for the rest of your career.