Think that networking is for people who don’t have homework, who have graduated, or who grew up with powerful businesspeople in their lives? Have you ever dismissed networking as simply a call to stick your nose in others’ business, ask for handouts, or act like you know what you’re talking about when really you have no clue? Of course you have. We all have.
In reality, networking is none of these things. Rather, networking is just a big word for a series of simple acts of sincerity, which can take all of five minutes a day. These acts can end up landing you jobs, references, and the kind of real-world advice that sticks with you for a lifetime.
So what are you waiting for? Drop your old notions of networking and check out these basics to grow your professional web and making your connections count.
Don’t try to act hyper-professional or, on the other side, overly-lackadaisical. By that same token, don’t pretend to be interested in things you aren’t or oversell yourself to have skills you really don’t. The best way to meet others who are like-minded is, you guessed it, to be yourself. Honesty and authenticity are traits that are easily read by those already established in their careers, and can go a long way,
Getting your networking online via a site like LinkedIn means you’ll technically be networking all the time as more employers view your profile. It also serves as a way to stay in contact with recruiters without having to ask the sometimes overly-personal question of “can I get your email/phone number?”
Don’t think in terms of success/failure
Reaching out to others can be intimidating, but don’t get discouraged when you don’t hear back. Even taking the step to get out of your comfort zone is something to be proud of, and often times, professionals will recognize that there simply isn’t anything they can do for you at that time, and will make a mental note of your email or conversation. In any case, the beauty of networking is you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Don’t dismiss anyone
The more you network, the more you’ll find that help and advice often comes from the places you least expect it. In fact, if you talk to those you already know like friends, classmates, or relatives, you’ll probably find that you already possess a strong network. Start small with your immediate circle – those you’re already comfortable with – and work your way out, treating everyone as an asset. At the end of the day, likability and trust are the most important factors of networking.
Having concrete goals in place for your career, your extracurriculars, and your personal interests is an important part of making a strong impression on colleagues and peers. Goals and even specific career positions show that you aren’t simply looking for someone to hand you an opportunity. This strategy is especially important for those studying the arts or business, as goals are always more likely to stand out to others than vague interests.