Does the idea of networking send you into a spiral? Does hearing the word fill you with anxiety? Many of our clients feel similarly, but guess what? It doesn’t have to be all that scary! We have some quick tips and tricks to shift your mindset, that will help you change your relationship with networking from foe to friend. And remember, networking isn’t just attending large events alone. It can also mean simply reaching out to people on LinkedIn and setting up more casual one-on-one coffee dates — on you, of course!
1. Get clear about your career. You don’t have to know the exact job you want, but you should know who and what you’re targeting. The more organized and upfront you are, the easier it is for someone to help you. Take some time to reflect on your strengths and accomplishments. When you look inward, an aha moment about your future is never far behind.
2. Craft the perfect elevator pitch. There is no one way to do this, but here are some key things to remember: it should only be 20-30 seconds and it needs to explain who you are, what you do and how you are different, while being compelling enough to pique your listener’s attention. Practice this in the mirror or on a friend!
3. Reframe why you are networking. You aren’t necessarily asking for a job. It is more an opportunity to learn about the person in front of you, what they do, why they love it (or don’t!), and who they know. The goal should always be to gather information and grow your network. While you might need a job, please don’t lead with that energy because it might turn the right person off, leaving them less inclined to help. In other words, be cool!
4. Tap into your existing network. Think of friends, past colleagues, classmates, and even family. Our clients always think they’ve sufficiently done this, but when we dig a little deeper, we usually learn that they’ve only called or emailed a handful of people. Pro tip: create a spreadsheet to keep track of everyone you’re planning to contact. You will be surprised by how quickly this list grows!
5. Something else you can do is propose a phone call or a video chat if the person is too busy or reluctant to meet for coffee. During your meeting, in person or virtual, it is important to remember to be an attentive listener, while also discussing some of your own accomplishments and asking for ways to grow your network.
6. If you’re feeling positive about your time together by the end of the conversation, ask permission to keep the lines of communication open. You never know who will be helpful when! And as always, send a thank you note to show appreciation for the time they spent with you. This goes a long way.