Use Networking To Jumpstart Your Career (Part 2)
Five networking do’s
Whatever you’re doing, you’ll do it better with a little help from your friends. And the best way to increase your circle of friends and colleagues is to network.
The problem is that networking often means stepping out of our comfort zone. The idea of walking into a room full of strangers can be a little scary. Even if we’re not nervous, often we’re not quite sure what to do when we get there.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. While reading this article might not make you eager to attend every association dinner, mastering a few techniques can help you become more comfortable and become a better connector.
Part One focused on Five Networking Don’ts. Let’s take a look at Five Networking Do’s.
- Go AloneLot’s of us go to networking events. My guess is that association luncheons top the list. The problem is that many of us buddy up: We go with friends and/or spend time with people we know once we get there. Bad move.The next time you go to an event nix the buddy system. That doesn’t mean you should avoid people you know. Just be sure to meet some new ones. If you decide to drive over with a colleague agree that you’ll both sit with people you don’t know at dinner. That gives you the opportunity to make twice as many contacts.
- Quiet Your Inner VoiceYou know the one. It’s that little voice in your head that starts talking at the most inopportune times. Some people call it our inner critic. Others call it our inner chatterbox. Whatever you call it, it can sabotage your best efforts.The next time your inner voice begins saying things like “I probably don’t look professional enough” or “They probably don’t want to talk to me” take a minute and turn if off. Force yourself to quiet your inner voice and focus all of your attention on the conversation at hand.
- Watch Your Body LanguageIt’s important to plan a few topics to talk about and listen generously when other people speak. But, that’s not enough. Much of people’s impression of us depends on other things like our appearance, gestures and tone of voice.Listen to your voice on tape. Get the whole picture with a video camera. Try to see yourself as others do. Finally, if you haven’t changed your look in five years it’s probably time to rethink your professional image. Does it say what you want it to?
- Have a Name TagI have a problem remembering names. Lots of us do. One way to help others remember your name is to repeat your first name twice. For example, I should say, “Hi, I’m Annette, Annette Richmond. This gives the person I’m speaking with the opportunity to hear my name twice.When you meet someone try to use his or her name in conversation. For instance say, “What type of law do you practice, James?” Using someone’s name will help cement it in your memory.
Here’s a tip, put your nametag on the right. Most of us are in the habit of putting things like corsages, pins, etc. on the left because they look better. But, a nametag serves you better when it’s on your right lapel. Why? Because it’s in the line of vision of the person you’re shaking hands with.
- Know Your StyleDo you dominate the conversation? Or do you stand silently on the edge of the group? It’s important to know your personal style and adjust it as necessary.If you’re the type who loves to be the center of attention, make sure you give others the opportunity to speak. Let other people into the group and into the conversation. Solicit their ideas.
If you’re the shy type, make an extra effort to enter the conversation. It’s OK to summarize what’s already been said. Or add your thoughts to someone else’s comment.
The best way to become a better connector is to make networking part of your life. Strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you on a plane. Talk to people at the PTA.
The next time you go to your association’s dinner practice some of the techniques you’ve learned here. Once you become more comfortable meeting people the easier it will become. And as your networking efforts begin to bear fruit, you’ll become more excited when you have the opportunity to make new connections.