The following post was written by guest blogger Jen Przydzial, Zeta Delta–Towson University.
For many, when we hear the word “networking,” we think of a room full of strangers trying to make small talk, hoping to leave an impression on somebody, anybody. Sound familiar? It should since networking is very similar to recruitment. Just like when we were collegians, approaching recruitment took practice. The same is true for networking. Here are a few tips to make networking easier.
Find a place that makes you comfortable.
Everyone’s idea of comfortable is different. You may be comfortable in a small group or scheduling a one-on-one coffee date might work better for you. Start small. Network in an environment where you feel comfortable. As you gain confidence, increase the number of people you network with at one time.
Networking does not always need to occur in an unfamiliar environment. It can be just as beneficial to network within your current place of employment. This offers you the opportunity to meet new people, learn from others and express your goals for the future. You never know when networking will lead to finding a mentor or advancing to a new position.
Let’s not forget that networking does not always need to be done in person. Today, many individuals network on LinkedIn by connecting with individuals in their field and joining groups with shared interests and searching for jobs.
Set a goal.
Start small. Set a goal for each networking situation. It could be: “I am going to talk to three new people,” or “I am going to use this event as an opportunity to practice my opening line.”
Have an opening line.
Everyone should have an open lining or an elevator pitch. This is one or two sentences that will help individuals know who you are, what you want to achieve and intrigue them enough to ask you additional questions.
In addition to having an opening it line, it is always a good idea to start a conversation off with a firm handshake. Be sure to make eye contact with the individual during your conversation.
After a networking event, follow up with those individuals who interested you or who may be able to help you. Follow up with an email or phone call. If you want to spend more time getting to know someone, invite them to coffee or lunch. If it is someone who may help you in the future, remind them of what you are interested in and ask them to let you know if they hear of anything that might be of interest to you.
Practice, practice and practice some more. Practice your opening line in front of the mirror. Do some role-playing with a friend or colleague. As you get comfortable and gain confidence, networking will become easier. You might even find that you like it!