Happy Halloween! Did you know that a turnip has a place in Halloween history? People used to walk around with hollowed-out turnips with candles inside! This practice is believed to be a precursor to today’s jack-o' lanterns. Now that we have your attention, let’s talk about a ghost that floats around the room...networking! We’re diving into networking because to some it may be a spooky topic, but it’s not for us! We love to meet new people and connect! When you view networking as an opportunity, it can be a less hair-raising experience! Are you ready to start ringing doorbells asking for candy [or connections...]? Before you put your networking costume on, here are a few things to keep in mind!
Shift Your Mindset
There is power in positivity. Networking isn’t eerie; it’s a chance to meet new people and learn from their stories and experiences. This is a time when you can build mutually beneficial relationships. When you focus on the potential outcomes, it’s possible to leave the jitters behind. You can find hundreds of studies that have published results sharing the “power of positive thinking” with the results that happier people live longer! Positive people are typically healthier and more successful. The Psychological Bulletin published a study here with results that share that “when people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic, and others find them likable and sociable.” We love to build happiness in our hubs by sharing fun news and celebrating accomplishments! Discover how fun it is to connect with others, so the ghost in the room doesn’t make you jump.
A great way to begin networking is to start small. For example, it could be simply asking someone you know – like a neighbor – about their job or if anything new is going on at work. If they're in your life every day, you can still strike up a conversation about their professional life. Small steps like this can be major progress! A great way to begin a conversation is to ask open-ended questions that encourage dialogue and deeper discussions. Indeed.com shares questions you could ask including:
How did you join the industry?
What is the best part of your job?
What professional development do you do?
Where do you hope to go next in your career?
You can use these questions to show your interest and learn more about what they do and their experiences. This is a great way to show genuine curiosity and practice actively listening to establish meaningful connections.
Prepare and Practice
Preparation is key – even in networking. Before you walk in the door at a networking event, there are ways to get ready. You can research the event, like where it is located to determine what the attire may be. Sometimes, you can even see who is going to be there and from what companies, which means you can research the industry they work in to think about talking points or questions you could ask. This knowledge will help you feel more confident and enable you to contribute to conversations more effectively.
Additionally, you can practice introducing yourself and talking about your professional background and interests. It may feel a bit strange talking to yourself, but rehearsing beforehand is a great way to prepare. While practice doesn’t make perfect, it can help build your confidence in new situations. And, if you want to try practicing in front of a mirror — go for it – you won’t be the first!
Attend Events with a Friend
Use the buddy system! If you find networking events potentially intimidating, consider attending them with a friend or colleague. Having a familiar face by your side can boost your confidence and make the experience more enjoyable. You will want to remember to still branch out and engage with new people because that is why you are there – to network.
Networking is about building relationships. The best way to do that is by being yourself! Authenticity will help you establish rapport and make the experience more enjoyable and impactful. Networking can be more than just a transactional interaction; it’s an opportunity to form deeper connections.
Follow Up to Stay Connected
After meeting someone, you may consider following up to maintain the connection. It could also be as simple as connecting with them on LinkedIn, but a personalized email or LinkedIn message expressing your appreciation for the conversation goes a long way. For example, if there is an article you come across that reminds you of an individual, share it with them! Or, if you meet at an event where there’s great food, reconnect and reminisce over how great the hummus or pasta was. Building a network is an ongoing process, and nurturing those connections will help you develop long-term professional relationships! Gretchen Olwig, our Senior Director of Talent Engagement, experienced a random but impactful networking experience that just occurred recently:
“Networking can happen anywhere! Chatting up your Uber driver, the person next to you on a plane, or when you’re out with friends at a bar or restaurant. I recently was at a winery with family. We started chatting with the couple next to us. Turns out, he owned a small IT staffing firm. After meeting, we connected on LinkedIn and messaged a bit. It was fun to get his perspective on the industry and expand my network. You never know who you may encounter!”
Networking is a skill that takes time to learn through practice and experience. The more you engage in it, the more comfortable and natural it will become. Are you ready to embrace the opportunities with a positive mindset? It’s time to walk into the room with your head held high.
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If you’re looking to meet new people, contact us, and we can help you find your next opportunity!