It’s easy to believe that networking just equates to persistent communication and overbearing in hopes of getting a job. This is a misconception. Networking actually centers around building relationships in an organic way. One of the most beneficial skills you can gain while aiming to have a fulfilling career in the future is knowing how to make connections. In order to do that, you need to understand the social skill of networking and the etiquette that comes along with it.
1. Network Everywhere: Utilize every resource.
There’s no limit to where you can network, Here are just a few examples of networking opportunities:
- Discuss work with your friends, your family, the people in your organization and the people in your major. Don’t dismiss anyone or the value they may have.
- On LinkedIn, you can network with thousands of peers and employers, but you can also network on other social platforms such as Google Plus and Twitter.
- One of the easiest and safest ways to get started is to connect with your classmates, peers, professors and any Aggie you know. When you are comfortable networking with people you know, you can progress to any former student and industry professional in relevant fields.
- Want to take a step further? Comment on an article or respond to a comment with your own insight or offer to share an article of your own. Focus on creating value.
- One of the best ways to get a referral is from someone you know who knows someone, the real-life version of asking mutual connections on LinkedIn to introduce you.
- Ask the people you have made a connection with to review your resume and give feedback. While doing this, they may happen to think of a company or a connection to recommend to you based on your experience.
2. Build a Relationship: Don’t ask for a job.
The most important thing to keep in mind about networking is that you are building a relationship, not asking for a job. Show sincere interest in the topics your connections bring up, ask questions, and offer information of your own. Keep in mind that everyone, including yourself and those you network with, has something to learn or gain and something to offer or give.
Have a conversation with everyone you meet by fostering a healthy back-and-forth. Don’t be the only one speaking. Ask for advice or ask a question revolving around the company culture, how long they’ve been with the company, and what they like about it. Smile and listen to them with genuine interest, and offer anecdotes or information in return. People love to talk about themselves, and they’ll remember you fondly if you were a good listener and conversationalist during your time together. By building a relationship, you might find that when an opportunity comes up, your connection will think of you for a referral.
One of the best ways to reach out to former students, industry professionals or recruiters is to ask for advice. When asking for advice, be specific about the topic and situation for which you are seeking advice. Frame your questions in a way it’s easy for them to understand and get back in a few words. Remember, everyone is busy. The easier you make it for someone to respond back to you, the better.
3. Attend Networking Events: Be professional.
At a professional networking event, opportunity abounds. Keep these guidelines in mind when attending a networking function:
- Dress professionally.
- Bring business cards if you have them.
- Wear a smile.
- Practice a solid handshake (when handshakes come back to existence)
- Have icebreakers in mind, and come up with an elevator pitch and potential answers to questions your connections may ask.
- When speaking to someone at the event, have an agenda of topics in mind so that you cover all of your bases without taking up too much of their time.
- Join a conversation happening by first listening, then asking a question when there’s an opening in the dialogue.
- If a friend of yours knows someone at the event, ask them to introduce you.
- Converse with each person in a friendly and natural way and offer information that may be helpful to them.
- During the conversation, address them by name. This shows that you’re paying attention and provides a sense of friendship
- Thank your connections and offer to help with anything they need.
4. Follow Up: Connect after meeting.
Make sure to follow up after initial networking efforts. Find a reason to reconnect with the people you’ve talked to, perhaps by mentioning an article they might find useful. Be persistent, but not forceful. Stay organized by keeping track of everyone you’ve networked with and relevant information about each of them. In order to do this, you must pay close attention when speaking with each person and remember key facts about them.
Update your online profiles, particularly on LinkedIn, so that recruiters can see your up-to-date experience and skills. Be equally genuine and professional in both in-person and online conversations to establish credibility. Encourage your connections in their pursuits.and flatter them in a way that conveys sincerity and good intentions. Accept rejection - if they don’t respond, don’t take it personally. There will be many more people for you to talk to.
5. Be yourself: Don’t let shyness get in your way.
It’s easy to think that because you’re more introverted, you can’t network as effectively, or perhaps you think you can’t do it at all. However, there are many ways to network as a person who is on the quieter side:
Start by networking with the people you are most comfortable with, such as relatives and friends, then move on to alumni. The Aggie Network’s Find an Aggie tool is the perfect resource for networking with Texas A&M alumni.
After gaining practice with the people you feel comfortable with, move on to networking events and networking with others outside of your circle.
Don’t make the mistake of apologizing for trying to make a connection. Not only are you not doing anything wrong, it also comes off as unprofessional.
It’s easy to think that if you’re shy, you should force yourself to be bubbly and outgoing. However, it’s better to skip the acting, which can be obvious, and instead showcase your true personality by being genuine and proving that you’re credible and have a lot to offer with your conversational skills.
By following these networking tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating lasting connections that result in enriching professional relationships, referrals, and ultimately, a successful career.
The Career Center offers resources for networking, including networking plans and sample networking emails, as well as LinkedIn basics.
Written by Analise Narine, Digital Marketing Intern, Career Center