If the word “Networking” makes you shiver down your spine, know that I also reacted the same way before. Building relationships in the world of work really seemed like something unnatural and forced, but since I changed my point of view and practiced a lot, I found that in addition to being useful from the point of view of professional and personal growth, networking is also fun !
1. SIMPLY, SAY HELLO
Unless your group of friends is large and diverse, it’s not every day that you see a marine biologist and an aerospace engineer talking about their common projects and interests. When you want to expand your network of relationships, look for people who are less similar to you among those present. Many events provide a list of attendees, which allows you to pinpoint specific individuals or companies.
Even easier: approach someone at random. Talking to people who do not belong to your network of relationships gives you the opportunity to learn more about new companies and fields, about innovative ideas and interesting aspects to which people are dedicating their work. These are ideas that cannot always be found with an online search and that can give you the opportunity to relate to industries with which you would probably never otherwise have come into contact.
What to say when you get close to someone? It’s very simple, start with a warm and confident “Hello” and introduce yourself, it’s a good way to start a conversation.
2. CHOOSE THE INTERESTING PART
Director, consultant… surely the name of the role you hold sounds important. However, it is not certain that simply saying the name of a job position allows your interlocutor to understand what it is. Instead, try to describe what you do without naming the title. What makes your work interesting? What results have you achieved? Instead of simply saying that you are a marketing director, for example, you could explain that you develop innovative solutions to provide people with an exciting new product. Starting in this way is the best choice to arouse curiosity and questions from your interlocutor, taking the conversation to another level.
3. BUILD UP A RELATIONSHIP
Networking isn’t just a series of short conversations. Instead, they are contacts to nurture and maintain as in any other relationship, which means that a follow up after the first conversation is crucial. After exchanging business cards with someone, I quickly write on the back of the card that I have received something to help me remember the person who gave it to me. It may be an interesting fact that he told me about his work or even his love for cats. The next day, I look at all the tickets I have collected and contact everyone with a personalized message. Even a simple sentence like “It was great to meet you last night and talk about your work with ___. Please keep in touch ”, can give excellent results.
Even if you think someone isn’t a useful contact for you right now, you never know where that person will go or who they might connect you with in the future. On the other hand, if you meet someone you would like to talk to more, just ask. I have found that many people, even those in the most important roles, are very willing to meet you if you are really interested in learning more about what they do. Don’t be shy. And then, who knows? This person could give you important insights, or contacts that you can use to continue building nine relationships and growing.
4. LEARN FROM THE BEST
Whether it’s a short seminar, an interactive workshop or an open class, there are many places out there where you can grow professionally. From business-related associations, to university alumni groups, to conferences, events like these offer unique opportunities to listen to important guests, learn about new trends in your field and grow both personally and professionally. Working for different chambers of commerce, I learned a lot about different themes from the protagonists of the various fields. For example, I heard the governor of Massachusetts talk about how Boston is becoming an increasingly international city, as well as advice from a former TV host on how to present yourself with greater self-confidence.
You are interested in learning more about any topic with the speaker that interested you most during the event or keep in touch professionally? Try to get closer to the end of his speech and exchange contacts, even social ones (being on Twitter is really natural and simple, for example.) You should also exchange contacts with the others present. Since they also attended the same event, you already have something in common to talk about.
Networking can expand your horizons in many ways: it only takes a little courage and a little practice to make it less burdensome, more useful and yes, even fun.