Professional networking is not a socioeconomic skill that everyone is born with. A number of factors can lead some people to be great at it, while others manage to get by. And yet some people find it extremely difficult to network with others and create and manage their professional circle. These professionals know that they face missed opportunities and limit growth in their careers.
What we are seeing
Through our experience with Zenvoy communities, we see all types of individuals. Some succeed right away and find it easy to communicate, interact and manage many connections each year. On the other hand, we also see members and professionals who find it difficult to converse or to connect with people regularly. This latter group sometimes sees networking as a manipulation tact that they do not wish to indulge in. We completely understand and want to help those individuals navigate through this obstacle. After all, life is better with friends and supportive people in it, whether it’s a personal or a professional scenario. Realize this: people often want to work with and support you, it’s reciprocal. They understand that a strong professional network helps establish great information and idea sharing, builds good business and leads to a successful career. If you are a person who understands this, yet finds it difficult to establish professional relationships with people, here are some networking tips we think will help.
Good posture and presentation
Your main goal before the first impression is to look approachable and welcoming. Sounds simple, but someone who is stressed out by networking events can often forget to even look up from their phone when they’re attending one. Having great posture and keeping your chin up, not slumped shoulders and a downward gaze, is the first step toward having a great introduction at an event. Remind yourself that others are there to network too, and you’re not being a bother if you greet people with a smile and eye contact. Make sure you look presentable. Give yourself a second and third look in the mirror. While worrying about the event, maybe you missed a coffee stain? Is your fly down? Making sure you don’t have to worry about small things will give you even more confidence to network and communicate clearly.
Just as it’s important to be physically prepared, you’ll need to also prepare yourself mentally. If you get nervous and become tongue-tied when you try to talk to someone new, give yourself time before the event or meeting to get organized in your head. Look up ice-breaking questions (there’s plenty!) and rehearse them in front of the mirror or with a friend or significant other. Practice your elevator pitch and try it on people you are already comfortable with. Don’t lose hope if it doesn’t go well the first, or the second and third, time. Networking is not a race and each experience helps prepare you for the next one. Keep track of questions asked that you might have fumbled at first. Don’t dwell on your answer and whether it was correct, see it as an opportunity to refine your response for the next time. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll get—practice makes perfect!
Bring a buddy, if you can
Double-check the guidelines before you go, but we find a lot of events are very open toward having a “plus one.” One mistake we see people make is hanging on to the first conversation they’re comfortable with. Doing so prevents you from networking with other potential connections, and also might suck the energy out of the conversation you’re in if you drag it out. It’s good to have a fall back option, like a friend or co-worker, to retreat to and compose yourself. It’ll provide a good break between conversations and give you time to go over the dialogue you just had and take down any important notes.
Accept rejection and don’t take it to heart
At networking events, and even in life, it is normal and acceptable to meet people who you don’t like or those who won’t like you. Sometimes personalities just don’t match. People might find you too serious or nerdy, or they can be rude. You might end up chatting with someone who cannot, or chooses not, to help you. They might not be a fit for the type of connection you’re looking to make. They could just be having a bad week, and any other time the conversation would have gone in a different direction. Don’t take it personal and understand that rejection is a part of this process. Take something from every experience and learn from it and move on. Don’t always assume it’s your responsibility to make every networking opportunity a success.
Even the best of professionals will admit that it takes time, patience and dedication to grow your career circle.
It may look easy, but for some it took years of practice and learning from failures to reach the point where they’re comfortable in any room. Remember, it won’t happen overnight, keep practicing. And if all else fails, you can always seek professional guidance. There are mentors, experienced professionals and life coaches who can help walk you through the process. At Zenvoy we believe that connecting with people and forming strong relationships is the best way to succeed in your personal and professional life. And we’d love to help you in that journey. Have any tips or tricks we might have missed? Contact Us.