You may be shy. You may not even know where to start. Networking isn't the same for everyone and no two people do it the same. 2021 is a different type of year. You can go out but you need to stay in. You can start a business but you have to sell. Take your networking up a notch with these gems!
Building your connections can provide you with invaluable opportunities to exchange information, get advice from experienced peers, and in many cases achieve your career goals. And as Azulay says above, networking is meant to be mutually beneficial—you may have the rewarding experience of contributing to a connection’s success in return.
1. Prepare (but don’t over-rehearse) your elevator pitch
You’ve probably been told time and time again about the importance of having a polished elevator pitch (put simply, a concise explanation of your skills and work experience) in your back pocket.
When you’re networking, you should be prepared to summarize what you do and the value that it provides. But, that’s really it—nobody wants to listen to you ramble through paragraphs of your entire professional history.
2. Don’t be afraid of small talk
Traditional networking advice will talk about the torture of small talk and how you should do your best to avoid mindlessly chatting about the weather or the event itself. However, there’s nothing wrong with small talk—and trying so hard to skip past it will only make you that much more nervous.
“Small talk is important. It’s how we as humans get a feel for each other and you can’t shortcut it,” says Woodcock, “We can find out quickly, are they enthusiastic? Funny? Shy?”
“Jumping right into, ‘What’s your most formative childhood experience?’ sometimes leads to amazing conversation, but also completely shuts down a large subset of people,” she continues, “Small talk is a subtle way to create a connection and find out what someone is about.”
Looking for an easy—and low-pressure—way to get the conversation rolling? Consider asking something like, “Have you been to this event before?” It’s easy for the other person to answer, and it starts you off on some common ground.
3. Listen more than you talk
Networking is about building a relationship—which means it isn’t just an opportunity for you to talk all about yourself.
“Move the focus away from you to the person you’re speaking to, and simply listen,” advises Victoria Lioznyansky, M.S., Entrepreneur, Speaker, and Public Speaking Coach, “So many people go to networking events to talk. I advise my clients to go to listen. It’s pure magic how much more interested other people become in you and your business when you appear genuinely interested in them.”
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