We have all met the guy or girl who wasn’t as smart as you, didn’t work as hard as you and somehow got all the opportunities, pay raises, promotions etc. This same person was also the one who was going to all the corporate functions, networking events and was socially active in the community. But that stuff didn’t matter to you because you worked hard and “hated networking” events. That same reason is why your boss hasn’t noticed you. It is why you still haven’t been hired out of university or you’ve been stuck in the same role for 10 years. Today I am going to talk about the absolute necessity that is networking. This is isn’t the 70’s folks. The world has changed and so has the job market.
Employers are no longer expecting technical ability alone, they want people who can represent their brand and also grow the company. In this post, I will detail some elements of creating a network and how you can start today!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to talk people and introduce yourself. The good old saying ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’. This means people would rather deal with someone they are familiar with and know, than take a risk of working with someone they don’t know at all.
Many people have social anxiety or are naturally shy, my advice is to keep it simple. Stick to what you know… such as hi my name is X.I went to this school____, I wanted to introduce myself because I am interested in the work you do in your field____. The basis of a conversation is the start, always be friendly, smile and it will get easier over time.
One of my first professional interviews came from simply introducing myself to a gentleman in the finance industry. I was working at a coffee shop at the time and noticed signs of substantial wealth. The coffee shop was downtown so I assumed he worked in one of the professional industries. I simply introduced myself and asked what he did, from there began a relationship that led to an interview and a life connection. It ended up that the job didn’t really fit me given my young age, but was a great example of how powerful a simple introductory conversation can be.
So you introduced yourself, now what? The next step is having a memorable conversation. Don’t feel like you only have to talk about business or work, people love to talk about themselves so ask questions and listen! One thing I must stress is to be yourself, you want true connections in your life and not ones you have to memorize lines from the Wall Street Journal for. Make sure to conclude with a purpose for the conversation. Something to the sound of what you’re interested in or passionate about, say a job opportunity in a field or even something simple like asking for a business card to connect at a future date. After your conversation be sure to follow up. An email is pretty much the standard nowadays, but a handwritten card can be appropriate in certain circumstances.
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Creating a network can really help you catapult your career and avoid many mistakes your peers may make. With proper networking, one can attain a mentor figure who is able to guide them through their various paths throughout their career. Receiving logical advice and having the opinion of someone who has experienced a similar situation can be very advantageous. A proper network can also help in future job recruitment and referrals. Don’t be afraid to reach out to old bosses, professors, and acquaintances, it never hurts to reconnect with people and it might lead to a future career opportunity
So how do you start to create your network? Well starting is all it takes networking or creating a network is simply establishing relationships with people. I assume you have a friend(s), networking is basically that but in a professional manor.
A good start is to establish a network presence most likely on Linkedin. Linkedin is kind of like facebook for professionals. You have a profile where you can post your experience, education etc. From there you “connect” with your peers and grow an online network. You can message your connections and suggest future connections. I would highly recommend sending personal messages when you ask to “connect” with someone, most people don’t and it will be a great way to stand out. Also, please put up a profile picture it’s essential. You wouldn’t add someone on facebook with out a profile picture that you didn’t know and the same goes for Linkedin.
I have gone to countless networking events, they are essential, online presence is not enough. Whatever field you are in it is a great way to establish a presence, and get your name out there. Don’t be shy at events, now is not the time you could only have one chance to meet some of the people attending. I would recommend going alone, skipping the caffeine and in between conversations take time to breath and recalculate your thoughts. It is very important you appear calm and not flustered talking to people. When a conversation is wrapping up, thank them for their time and ask them if they have a business card to follow up with them at a future date.
Conclusion: Get out there today, don’t be shy and initiate the conversation!