Networking is something that I struggle with. I hate talking to people who come across as too schmooze-y and slick. My dad is the perfect example, although he is an engineer by trade, he is always either trying to sell something or get an amazing deal. He loves to call in favors and use his “network” to get what he wants for the best deal possible. I like to think that is the baby boomer’s style of networking and we have evolved past that. Mad Men is out, and engaging in interesting conversations is in.
Don’t Be This Person
There are a few people in my friend circle that are constantly asking for favors to help further their career. They only ask to hang out, when they need a referral for a company that you work at, or message you, only to ask you to share a post for something they are promoting. These are the people my friends and I always talk about. They put us in a super uncomfortable spot and it doesn’t feel the least bit genuine.They are the people that only find value in you when they need something. It is never a good look to come across as this person.
Be This Person
Building a network is important. It is essential to use your network as a database for your career. Getting to know people and their strengths is a good way to put your network at work for you, in a useful and mutually beneficial way. Perhaps you have a friend who is a graphic designer and you have an awesome project they could collaborate on with you, or you know a Realtor in an area that your friend is hoping to buy in. Getting to know what your contacts is important; the more you are willing to invest in your network, the more likely they are going to invest in you.
How to Do This
Talk to people, but not in a sales-y way. When you meet people, make friendly small chat, but also try to get a sense of what they enjoy doing. Remember personal details about their life. A friend of mine has a birthday dinner every year. I usually see all the same people. One of her friend’s is always so wonderful with names. She will not only remember everyone’s name, but she also remembers what they do, and the topics that they may have covered in previous conversations. It is amazing that she can place people so well, and find relate-able topics to zone in on. Every time I have an encounter with her, it is always so refreshing and flattering that she remembers small details. People tend to like people that they feel like them. Showing that you care it a good way to establish this.
Networking doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, filled with awkward compliments, or meaningless banter. Every time my father greets someone, he loves to tell them they look great, “Looking good man,” and then he follows it with some more senseless banter. The encounter screams cheesy sales guy talk. A personalized statement goes a long way, whether is was an exciting project, a new addition to the family or a recent vacation, it is always nice to choose a personalized touching point to start off the conversation.
Good luck out there! I would love to hear your tips and secrets to networking.