How to network – 10 techniques that could boost your career
Graceful introductions, clinking glasses, swapping business cards...urgh, it's hard to know how to network.
Yes, it definitely takes a certain level of suave to be good at networking, and needless to say, we don’t all have it in us. But the fact of the matter is that it’s often a necessary evil, regardless of how awkward and squirmy you are.
How to network...
So what can you do to get rid of the fear and embrace the thrill? Say hello to your new game plan with these tips on how to network…
1. Do your research
Make LinkedIn your new best friend and, if possible, before an event check out who’s going to be there, what they look like, where they’ve worked before and whether they sound relevant to what you’re interested in. Knowing what they do will also give you time to swot up on your own stuff so you don’t have to blag quite so much.
2. Put on your best game face
Spoiler: people like happy people. If you spend all night complaining, then you’ll be seen as a drag. So slap on a smile, and avoid mentioning how much you hate your current job/lack of progress/general life. Focus instead on how much you’ve learned or that epic client you once got to work with.
3. Step outside of your comfort zone
At a big event, it’s only too easy to gravitate towards people you already know. And while it’s important to say hi, forcing yourself to interact with new people is the only way you’re going to win in this situation. That said, don’t be afraid to waltz over and join someone you do know when they’re talking to someone that you don’t. Having someone make the introduction can be a perfect icebreaker when you’re nervous about how to network.
4. Practice in the tea room
If stepping outside of your comfort zone sounds intimidating, set yourself the challenge of starting a conversation with one person you’ve never spoken to before, every day. It might be as simple as the lack of biscuits in the cupboard, but it’s a start. Although this is easier in big companies, in smaller teams it might be as simple as asking someone different whether they want to grab lunch with you.
5. Ask questions
We all have that one friend that just never shuts up about themselves - and if you don’t, then maybe you’re that person. Make sure you ask questions of whoever you’re talking to, maybe even think of an opening line or two ahead of time so at least you have something to say. It takes two to make a conversation, don’t forget that.
6. Show off your unique personality
As much as introverts are inclined to think the other way, it really is okay to be you. Don’t be afraid to share personal tidbits when someone compliments you on an item of clothing or drop in a little anecdote that might be interesting, if not entirely work-related. As sharp as they may seem, these people have hobbies and interests to, and yours might just cross over.
7. Get out of your own head
Awkwardness is often rooted in our fear of other people’s perception of us. But in fact, much of this is inside our heads. The truth is, no one cares about the spot on your cheek when you’ve got a killer CV and no one is judging your eyebrow growth when you’re making your targets, in exactly the same way that you’ll not notice anyone else’s flaws, if they’re an epic person.
8. Don’t swoop too soon
Wait until you’ve built up a genuine rapport with someone before sliding them your business card. Desperation is obvious, so too is using someone for your own gain; don’t be “that person”. Also don’t be the person with a terrible, scrappy or childish business card - first impressions are important. If you do swap cards, always follow it up with a “great to meet you” email.
9. Be ballsy
Think about the most ballsy woman you know. The one that grabs every opportunity with both hands, that swans into every room with the confidence of a lioness on the prowl. When you’re feeling awkward, channel that person: what would they do in this situation? Say hello, ask the question, suggest a coffee. You’ll only look as stupid as you would with nothing to say.
10. Don’t drink too much if you want to network successfully
And that means coffee or wine, because while a bit of Dutch courage can loosen you up and make you more confident, it can also push you a step too far. The only thing worse than the person trying to be clingy is the person that’s drunker than anyone else in the room. Cringe.
And if none of those pointers work for you when it comes to how to network, then remember the age-old trick: imagining them naked, warts and all. It’s pretty difficult to feel intimidated by someone after that. Unless you're networking as a stripper that is.