Written by: Linda Evans, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Networking is a dirty word to most people, particularly introverts. But like many beneficial things in life, it is a skill that is worthy of our time and practice to reap its benefits. It can increase knowledge and job opportunities, improve innovation and status, and provide more opportunities to serve others.
Networking only feels dirty if it is done with selfish intent and inauthentic methods. Any negative emotions towards networking (dread, anxiety, frustration, boredom, shame, etc.) stems from our beliefs about networking.
As a college career advisor, I always start presentations on networking with 2 contrasting definitions -
Done Wrong: Brown-nosing, putting on a mask, begging for help, deceptively manipulating
someone to help you. Your approach is selfish and dishonest.
Done Right: Developing relationships of mutual interest and benefit. Your approach is benevolent and genuine.
Once we reframe what networking is, we can begin practicing the components that make networking more enjoyable and fruitful for both sides. The 8 tips below can be applied in singular interactions or extended mentorships.
First, how do we become more LIKABLE to others? People will like interacting with us and be more likely to want to interact with us again if we do the following.
1. Be efficient and respectful of others’ time and privacy. Expel any sense of entitlement just because someone agrees to converse with you. Ideally, set an expected time limit beforehand (“May I have 15 minutes to ask you about your career?”) and strictly adhere to it. If you ask any questions that may intrude upon personal affairs, always follow up with an easy out (“How did you balance new fatherhood with starting a company, if you feel comfortable sharing. If not, I understand.”).
2. Ask informed questions. If your encounter is pre-planned, do basic research of the other person on Linkedin or the company website before meeting so you can skip boring questions like, “What was your major?” and instead delve into more interesting questions like, “How did you transition from a philosophy major into entrepreneurship?” To avoid sounding completely clueless, strive to start questions with something you already know, i.e., “I know businesses should be legally registered. What was the process like for you to start an LLC?”
3. Be an appreciative listener. Take notes. Nod and give nonverbal affirmations like, “Uh huh.” Give good calm eye contact. Don’t interrupt. Listen between the lines to understand the true meaning. Mirror their facial expressions and body language to better empathize with what they are saying. Say, “Thank you for sharing” after they reveal something personal or insightful. Spend much more of your time listening than speaking.
4. Ask for personalized advice. For someone to give you useful advice, they must know some things about you. Give a concise description of your relevant background information (education credentials, career highlights, future goals) before asking them for specific advice about what you should do. Don’t be afraid, to be honest, open, and vulnerable so they can really tailor their advice to your situation. This also strengthens mutual trust.
Next, how will we ensure we will be MEMORABLE after an enjoyable conversation? To avoid awkward future re-introductions, we can do these specific things.
1. Give specific gratitude. When thanking your conversation partner, go beyond a mere “Thank you.” Share specific takeaways that resonated with you, why you felt them so strongly, and what you plan to do with the new information. This is closely tied to being an appreciative listener and shows that you highly value their time and the content they offered.
2. Send a message on Linkedin. Use the ultimate networking platform to keep track of all your contacts by writing your thank you note through Linkedin Messaging. That way, anytime you reach out to each other again, you can look in your messages for notes from your last interaction while having quick access to their profile.
3. Follow through and follow up. Always do exactly what you say you will do, and let them know you did it. Relationships are made of a series of interactions, and there is no set timeline for when to reach out again. Whether it’s been weeks, months, or years, send an update with how you applied their advice and the difference it has made in your life. People love knowing they had a lasting positive impact on others.
4. Share resources and information. A crucial part of networking done right is that it is mutually beneficial and interesting. If you come across anything (websites, articles, books, quotes, job openings, etc.) that may be appealing to someone you know, send it to them. Never suppress a generous thought.
Go forth and network!
Linda Evans, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Linda Evans is a strengths-based career coach and personal branding expert. In 2011, she founded her virtual career coaching business, Launched by Linda, LLC. Her full-time career has been in higher education since 2012, and she currently works in Career Services at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Linda has a B.A. in American Studies and a minor in Ballroom Dance from Brigham Young University, and an M.A. in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. She is also a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and has certificates in positive psychology and public speaking.