Do you dread networking? From mingling and small talk to having to approach strangers, networking can be downright draining. But connecting with people from your industry doesn’t have to be a chore. Meeting new people is a great way to learn about the job market, improve your personal and professional brand, and create referrals for your next career opportunity.
How can you become a better networker? Here are four simple ways:
1. Start Networking Before You Need a Job
The most experienced networkers are putting time and energy into building connections all year round. If you begin to network before you need a job, you’ll come off as more confident, you’ll have more time and mental energy to build genuine connections and you will show potential future employers that you’re invested in your community and professional development.
Have you waited until you are looking for a new job before you’ve started networking? That’s okay. Focus on building meaningful and mutually beneficial connections and prepare a few questions ahead of time so that you can remain engaged throughout the conversation.
2. Plan on The 8 / 2 Rule
One of the most common mistakes people make is that they expect networking to be, well, easy. And it’s just not! They think they can roll into the room, toss out some business cards, grab some cheese and crackers—and bam! Connections made. Job offers extended. Maybe you’ll even pick up a new best friend or two.
Yeah, it’s just not going to happen like that.
The 8 / 2 rule predicts that for every 10 people you meet at a networking event, 2 of them will be useful contacts to have. If those stats sound dismal, remember that it only takes one person to help you find your dream job.
3. Make it About Learning, Not About Schmoozing
Part of the reason that people dread networking is because it feels inauthentic. If that’s how you feel when you attend events, it’s time to change your strategy. Select events that focus on learning instead of conversational networking. Go see a speaker that you’re genuinely interested in. Sign up for a professional development course—or better yet, offer to teach one! When people learn together, they are more likely to bond and create genuine connections.
4. Find a Networking Buddy
The best way to tolerate any unpleasant situation? Find a friend to tolerate it with you. Not only will you be more likely to follow through on your plans but pairs can seem more approachable than a solo networker. Plus, if you decide to split up at an event, you’ll be making twice the amount of connections and you can trade introductions down the road.
Ongoing networking can be a powerful tool to help you advance your career—whether you are looking to find a new job today or in the future. Consistently building relationships with people in your industry will rapidly grow your referral network.
Not sure how to get started? Contact VanderHouwen, we are well connected in the technology, accounting and finance, and engineering job markets nationwide.