The best way to meet people is through other people. At least, that is what I believe.
Last time, we talked about the importance of networking and that you are actually interviewing and being interviewed all the time.
Networking can lead to many long-term, meaningful friendships, mentors and support that are also beneficial to develop opportunities for your career long term.
Today, I will talk about some aspects of networking and what I have used over the years to help me get through those days when I think, ‘Do I really want to make the effort today?’ Ninety-nine per cent of the time, I am glad that I did.
Networking can be challenging, particularly if you go on your own. However, if you are on your own, do take a moment to look around when you go to the next event. There is nearly always someone else on their own. Start with them. Smile, walk over and say hello. They are probably as nervous as you are.
I often start with: ‘Hi, are you here on your own too?’ ‘What brings you to the talk today?’ or ‘What does your company/you do in this sphere that brings you here today?’
Better yet, if you are really, really shy, I suggest you take a buddy with you so that you have someone that you can talk with, so you don’t feel awkward. I suggest you try to talk with someone else there, though, and not use having your friend there as an excuse not to try.
So, what other questions do you ask the person you have just met?
Look up ‘open questions’ on your web browser.
In sales training 101, these are the questions that don’t have a yes or no answer, and so the person has to give some more information. They have no choice but to give you something else back that you can then work on for the next part of the conversation.
Some examples to start the conversation include:
- What brought you to this meeting today?
- If you know that the person is in a field of interest to you, How did you decide to get into this field?
- I am interested to see what the speakers have to say today; is there anything in particular that brings you here today?
- What do you see as the future of this area/occupation?
- What companies do you see as leaders/competitors in this field?
- If there was a speaker, ask the person next to you: What did you think was most interesting about the talk?
This is one of my favourites. I had a lovely young woman that I was coaching try this the other week at a talk, and she ended up sitting next to and talking to a person from one of the companies that she wanted to work for.
She emailed me saying she was so excited that she had found the courage to talk with them. Next time, she will find it easier again.
I know several people who are full of energy and can break into any conversation that is going on. They have their methods of networking that I am sure work well for them. Personally, I find that very difficult to do.
I am also wary that I may be intruding into something that others are talking confidentially about. I have had others break into a conversation that I have been having, and it can be off-putting at times.
It does depend on how well you know the people. If you start to know them better over time, then it is not seen as so intrusive. It also depends on the function; if you are at a more relaxed function, like after-dinner drinks, it’s much easier and potentially more acceptable.
If you’re joining a group, 90 per cent of the time, I suggest you ask a question rather than offer an opinion. If you listen to what the group is talking about for a while, you can often ask a poignant question rather than come in halfway through and start blurting out your opinion on a topic that you walked into.
Personally, I also place a lot more value in talking with one or two people rather than 20.
It’s okay for the organiser/s to talk to many people as they are trying to ensure that everyone is included. But some seem flighty and make you wonder if they are just gathering cards to spam email/phone another day. Or that they don’t want to talk with you as they keep looking over their shoulder to see if someone more important is coming into the room.
Regardless, for anyone you meet, I always suggest you thank them for their time and say: ‘It was lovely to meet you today’.
Connect with them on LinkedIn if they are open to it. I always ask people if they are okay to connect with me. Sending them an email later is even better.
You should expect some rejection at some stage, but please don’t let it stop you. Some are wary of those in recruitment, maybe from bad experiences, and I have had some people turn their nose at me. One refused to accept my card.. but hey, I had to move on.
You cannot be liked by everyone, and it is best not to take it personally. I had only met them that night at that function and they put me in a ‘box’ rather than being open to conversation and getting to know the real me. They are not the only ones in the room to talk to.
Just remember, be genuine and sincere, you are a good person and it’s okay to network. Most people like to meet new people and help each other out.