Most people become incredibly anxious at the thought of attending a networking event of any kind, whether it is a Chamber of Commerce event, professional organization or a group of fellow jobseekers. However, the thought of attending a social event or party at a friend’s home doesn’t elicit the same level of tension, though on a fundamental basis, the two events are very similar.
Networking is about making friends and getting to know other people well enough that there is a certain level of trust. Networking is not all about you and it’s not about collecting business cards from an event like charms for a bracelet.
It is about you making a connection with another person. Either by attending an event, or striking up a conversation with someone in a supermarket, or chatting up that fellow parent at an after school practice -it’s being truly “in the moment” and hearing what they have to say and figuring out how you can help them.
Here’s some easy tips to get the ball rolling toward making a new friend:
- Your attitude should always be about potentially making a new friend, or looking for ways to help other people with nothing in return.
- Ask questions that get the other person talking about themselves, and really listen to what they have to say.
- If you’re uncomfortable approaching new people, think of some genuine ways to start a conversation. I usually pay someone a compliment or make an observation about the venue, food, activities or even call out how it can take me a while to loosen up at events where I don’t know anyone. Just something to break the ice and share what is likely a common feeling or impression.
Think of an exit strategy, and be considerate of allowing other people time to network at an event. “I had a great time chatting with you, I’m sure you would like to meet other people, I’ll catch up with you next week.” Read their body language. It’s better to walk away and make plans to meet them another day to continue the conversation than monopolize their time.
By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC. www.redincllc.com
Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com