Easy networking hacks for people who hate to network
For some people, networking is like pulling teeth. It’s awful, you dread it and it’s painful. Believe it or not, though, we’re always networking, every day. You meet people, you chat, you offer help and you ask questions. That’s really all there is to it.
So, what can you do to make it a little easier to build relationships and improve your networking skills? Here are some tips to get you started:
- Relax: Don’t put so much pressure on the situation. If it helps, bring someone with you, do some breathing exercises or whatever makes you feel calm.
- Start with people you know: Networking is all about nurturing your relationships. There’s nothing wrong with starting with the connections you already have and investing in those first. Make a plan to call someone you already know and invite them for coffee. Get to know them on a more personal level.
- Think of questions to ask: Have some questions ready before you go to an event so you have something to say if there’s a lull in the conversation. Think of something other than “What do you do?” to break the ice.
- Do your homework: Try to find out ahead of time who might be at this event and learn a little about them. You’ll feel more at ease if you have a few notes and are prepared when you meet those attendees.
- Be sure to listen: You should always listen more than you talk. You’ll learn more about the person and most people love to talk about themselves. Show interest in what they’re saying.
- Pay attention: When you’re chatting with someone, try to remember something about their personal interests or family life. The more you have in common, the more easily the conversation flows when next you meet.
- Stay in Touch: After you’ve met, stay in touch by reaching out occasionally either by email or on social media and professional networking sites. Consider sending an interesting article or sharing new ideas. The next time you see him/her, you’ll have even more to talk about!
- Don’t hand out your cards as soon as you meet: It’s not really polite to shove your card at someone before you’ve had a chance to talk. Chat for a bit and then ask for the other person’s card…then offer yours.
- Don’t forget to help: If you’re in a position to offer some help, do it without any expectation of return. Ask them what they need. People are more apt to remember you and be willing to offer their help in the future if you’re the person who helped them out when they needed it.
- Remember the "small stuff": Make a note of birthdays, anniversaries, other milestones. It will give you one more reason to reach out and send congrats or greetings without asking for something. People will love that you remembered.
- Put it on your calendar: After you’ve attended an event, consider putting the names of those you met on your calendar for future contact. That way, you’ll have a reminder to contact someone regularly and it’ll be easier to stay in touch.
- Join a group: Networking doesn’t always have to be about work. People you meet know other people. Consider joining a group that meets for lunch once a week; or a hiking group; or a book group. It’s a fun way to mix with others doing something you already enjoy.
- Filter your events: If you live in a big city or an active business community, there’s likely a wide range and number of events happening all the time. Pick the ones that will be the most beneficial to you. You don’t need to go to everything.
Networking is all about who you know. The more people you know and who they know, the bigger and wider your net. Make sure others know what you do and what you have to offer in your area of expertise. Listen carefully, keep in touch and be generous with introductions and include others in your conversations. People want to be around and do business with people they like. Make them feel at ease, and you’re half way there.