Networking is and should be an integral part of your job hunt, career progression and planning, the process of looking for new friendships or new social circles, when looking for a life partner, or when starting a business.
But, not all of us are naturals in networking. Although some of us just have an innate ability to talk to and connect with new people, there are many who struggle in situations where we are thrown into a room full of people we’ve never met before and are expected to connect with. If you fall into the latter category – as so many of us do – networking is not easy, and you probably prefer to talk to the people you know at networking events then, you may end up leaving without having made many – or any – new connections.
The good news is that even if you dread networking events, it doesn’t mean you are doomed forever – you can get better at it! There are some things you can do to make your networking experience, whether it be at an official networking event, a party or at a corporate breakfast or meeting, better. And the more you practice, the better you get at it!
So here are our top Lumi tips for networking:
- Have your elevator pitch ready – an elevator pitch is a quick sentence or two summarising you and what you do. Think this through in advance so that when you’re asked ‘what do you do’, ‘how do you know this person’, ‘how did you end up in this meeting’ – you have an (awesome) answer ready.
- Decide what you want to get out of the event/situation before entering it – Are you attending or going to this dinner party or networking event to make business connections, to further your career or to meet new people to broaden your social network? If you’re clear to yourself what your purpose of attending is – it’ll be easier for you to motivate yourself to talk to new people, as there is purpose to it.
- Set yourself a goal – Set a goal such as ‘at this event I will talk to 5 new people’ or talking to a specific person you know will be there and would be a great connection – and then stick to it. Even if you meet someone really interesting, consider connecting with them, and then moving on to meet your goal.
- Be you – Once at the event, be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Be genuine. Networking is all about building relationships, and you don’t want to start a new relationship, whether it be business, personal or a romantic relationship, with a lie.
- Put down your phone – when at the event/party, don’t hide behind your phone. It’s tempting, we know, but you’re there to network and meet new people face to face – and if you’re constantly on your phone, you will not look very approachable and will miss great opportunities to meet amazing new people.
- Smile – Everyone looks less intimidating and more approachable wearing a smile. No one wants to waste an evening spending time with a grumpy sole so make sure you turn up with a smile!!
- Ask a lot of questions – We all like talking about ourselves, so asking people lots of questions about themselves is a very simple way to make people feel valued. Encouraging people to talk about themselves, their careers or businesses, will make them feel great about the conversation and also give you lots of information. As a general rule, it’s always good to walk away from a conversation having allowed the other person to talk more than you did.
- Listen and concentrate – just asking questions about people doesn’t quite cut it – you’ll have to listen to the answers too. Keep eye contact as much as possible, and try not to scan the room while the other person is talking. If you can make them feel that they are worth your time, and that you listen, it is more likely they will walk away feeling good about the conversation – and ultimately about you.
- Consider who they know – Don’t solely concentrate on what they do or on if there is synergy between you and the person you’re talking to. They might know someone who you could be friends with, or do business with. Even if they can’t help you directly, someone in their network might.
- Follow up – now that you have all those new connections and business cards, make sure you follow up. Send an email, connect on social media, or call them. You never know what this could lead to!
Happy networking ladies!