Even if you really hate networking, it’s still necessary. There’s still no perfect digital way to network – and who you know during your job search is really important. Online networking is possible, of course, but you’ll still have to put on your best social graces for it. Here are some networking tips to help you get the most out of making professional contacts, even if you’d rather have your teeth drilled than socialize:
1. Who Do You Know – and Who Do They Know?
When it comes to networking, start with your existing social circle. This includes friends as well as professional contacts. Even if your friends don’t work in the same industry or have similar career goals, they may know others who do. Part of networking is the art of getting introductions out of people you already know that lead you to people you should know. You can even orchestrate this yourself.
“Curation is the ability to bring people who should know one another together in an intimate setting so they can share meaningful conversations and build the foundation for a strong relationship,” Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, told The Next Web. “It’s truly connecting the dots at a higher level for those being curated.”
You don’t need to be working on an important council or board to make curation work for you, however. It might be as easy as asking your friend to bring her acquaintance in your field to the next happy hour. As a bonus, meeting a new professional contact in a friendly social context can take the anxiety out of it for all involved.
2. Be Quick About It
It’s often the case that the people you need to know for your job search are incredibly busy. Since that’s the case, it’s probably time to discard ideas like the business lunch when you’re trying to network. Instead, substitute in the business cup of coffee, or even the business brief email. If you can say what you need to say in a short amount of time, you’re more likely to get a positive response. Even the most enthusiastic networkers and potential mentors have very full schedules, according to The Next Web, and accommodating that will make your search for career contacts much easier. However, the publication notes, don’t forget the call to action, whether it’s asking for a reply or a future meeting.
3. Cast a Wide Net
Especially if you’re no fan of socializing, it’s generally a good idea to have a lot of short conversations with a lot of people. This applies at parties and networking events especially. It can be overwhelming to go for volume over quality, but it can also give you a more realistic set of expectations. It isn’t necessary for you to display infinite wisdom and gratitude to everyone you meet – it’s enough to be pleasant and interesting. If you look to meet a large number of new people when you go to a networking event, you’ll be more focused on displaying that side of your personality than an overly cultivated notion of what you find impressive. According to Financial Review, this is also a good tactic for introverts, as it can prevent feelings of being overwhelmed by one long conversation. Of course, using this method means you need to follow up on the more interesting conversations in more detail later.
4. Remember it’s a Mutual Exchange
Networking might seem like trying to get a lot of strangers to do you a favor if you don’t have much practice in it, but that’s not what it is at all. Instead, people make professional contacts for mutual benefit. While you may want to get to know a certain industry or get a foot in the door at a particular company, the people you’re meeting also have needs. Perhaps they’d like someone to bounce ideas off of, or they’re really interested in your graphic design skills or getting on your league-winning kickball team. Networking isn’t strictly a transaction, but it definitely involves benefit to both people. With that said, focus more on what you can do for others than how they can help you and you’ll have an easier time making genuine connections – and people you help will be falling over themselves to repay the favor.