As a career-focused professional, you’ve heard countless times how important it is to network.
I used to hear this and it would flat-out give me anxiety. The idea of talking to random people in a room full of strangers sounds like hell to me.
At least it used to.
What changed it for me was reframing it in my mind. I replaced the term “networking” with the much more positive verb “connecting.”
Think about the power of human connection in your life. Your friends and family, yes, but now look beyond the obvious. What about the group you collaborated with on a class project that made working on that all-nighter bearable? Or the gang of pals you met in the back row of spin class. Think about the regular barista who knows your order before you say it and how it makes you smile every morning.
The power of human connection is undeniable. It’s what makes life sweeter. Now imagine if one of your spin class pals or your barista friend asked you to help them make a connection. You would, of course, say yes!
You see where I’m going here, right?
Networking is about harnessing the power of your human connections. Your web of human relationships contains a wealth of possibilities. Yes, even professionally. Your contacts may work in a field that has nothing to do with your target industry, but you don’t know who they know. And just as you would be glad to help them, they would be glad to help you.
The more quality connections you have, the better. As you grow in your career, work to stay in touch with the people who mattered to you. And I want you to push out of your comfort zone and make some new connections. This is especially important at the start of your career.
I’m an introvert by nature, but I can now attend a professional event without dreading it. Here’s what I’ve learned.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A SUPER CONNECTOR
First, don’t think you have to meet as many people as possible! A five-minute chat with someone before asking for her business card is not making a quality connection. It’s the opposite.
Look to connect with just one person. That’s it. If I walk away from an event feeling like I had an enjoyable conversation with one person, I deem it a success. I want to have a real dialogue, and you should, too. Tell yourself that your goal for the event is to meet one person, and you can’t leave until you’ve done so.
BE A GREAT LISTENER
Too often, we get so hung up on what we will say next that we stop listening. Connection starts with active listening.
Ask questions. Listen more than you talk. See if you can find out what makes the other person tick; make it a mission to learn what you have in common. Don’t just ask them what they do; dig deeper. Discover what excites them. Share what excites you.
MAKE IT LINKEDIN OFFICIAL
Maybe it’s the start of a new friendship. Perhaps it ends up being one pleasant conversation, and you never see the person again in your life. Exchange contact information if it feels comfortable.
Follow up with a LinkedIn invite within twenty-four hours of the event. In your invite, state that it was great to meet them and that you are happy to help them make any connections you can. It’s about quality, mutual interaction, not asking for a favor.
Networking is not so intimidating when you think about it this way—is it?
Be yourself and be open to meeting new people. It’s as easy as that.