It may not be your favorite activity, but it’s important to be good at networking. Here’s a few critical tips on how to make the most of handshake moments.
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal which shed light on the reality of the way people feel about networking. The conclusion was that many people feel inauthentic, taxed and overall “icky” about the whole process. Those trying to move up and those trying to move people up alike, both felt as though the interactions could feel forced, awkward and just not right.
The logic follows when you think about it. Networking events like mixers and dinners can create high-pressure and labored introductions. Everyone is competing for the attention of certain higher-ups. It’s like a bad dream where you’re suddenly back in high school, vying for the affection of the cutest person. Only now it’s real life and it’s your job so your income, career and student loans are riding on it.
Furthermore, at networking events, most people gravitate towards people they already know. They struggle with small talk while trying to make an impression (the right kind of impression) and trying to meet many different people who could potentially help them excel in the workplace. Just thinking of that delicate balance gave me a small panic attack (I’m going to take five and get back to you).
Okay, so networking is tedious and anxiety-inducing, but at the same time, the principles behind networking are a necessity. We need each other to improve and excel both as the person hiring and promoting, and as the person being hired and promoted. If networking events like dinners and mixers are awkward and uncomfortable, wherein lies the solution?
- Ask for help! We all have work friends who have work friends. Within your current network, you can probably get introduced to more people than you realize. Let your friends know your goals, and ask if they can help you connect with someone who can help you achieve them. Personal connections go a really long way.
- Use social media. We don’t all like it, but it’s important to pay attention to it. Follow your idols or people who have achieved similar career goals. See what the company you admire is up to. “Like” things, “Follow” them, see who they are liking and following — show your interest in a way that is universally understood nowadays. Later, if you happen to run into one of your role models in human form, you can make a comment on something you saw them post about to start up a conversation!
- Keep it simple. Just like your Mama taught you: Shake hands, make eye contact, be polite. These things alone make an excellent first impression.
Make conversation, not a sales pitch. Don’t start right up talking about why you should get hired or promoted or transferred. This is the kind of dialogue that can lead to those “icky” feelings I was talking about earlier. This conversation is about them before it is about you. What their needs are, what their pain points are. From there you will find your opening, or at the very least, you’ll understand whether or not there is potential for you with this connection.
- Engage in conversation, don’t hijack it. It can be hard to avoid nervous over-chatter. Just remember to ask questions, take a breath and try to relax. Don’t try to force things by oversharing or overtalking. Short and sweet goes a long way!
Exit appropriately. As you look to end a conversation, never use any of the three B’s: Don’t excuse yourself for the bathroom, or to speak to someone better (“oh sorry I see so-and-so over there!”) and don’t say you’re going to the bar. Just say it was nice to meet them and move on.
- Follow up! Ask for an email perhaps or even find the person you’ve met on LinkedIn. Send them a nice message about your super awesome conversation. They’ll be flattered and an ongoing conversation has just been started.
Interested in supporting employee networking for engagement, retention and career pathing? eMentorConnect®’s KNOX® platform can offer a more targeted and sustainable approach for employee networking. The KNOX® matching algorithm can match people based on their criteria. It can be customized to provide specific or general content to get the conversation going, and move people from initial connection to goal-setting and follow-through. So instead of having an expensive mixer where people struggle to get out of their shells, you can have KNOX® do the work for you. Then sit back and watch the magic happen.
At the heart eMentorConnect® products and solutions is the unwavering belief that people are an organization’s most valuable resource. We thoughtfully configure our KNOX® software platform to address each client’s specific cultural and business needs, and to ensure they have a sustainable mentoring program that exceeds personal and business goals through sharing experience.