The Easy & Casual Way to Build Your Network
Posted March 11, 2015 & filed under Job Search
To you, what does networking look like? For years, the image has been reduced to a conference hall filled with name-tagged professionals glad-handing and swapping business cards.
That broad caricature undercuts what makes building your list of network contacts enjoyable and worthwhile: it can happen at any time and any place.
Networking Moves You Beyond Norms
The whole point of building your network is to avoid career stasis. You’ve either hit a professional plateau or want to avoid one, so you explore new opportunities and new ways of thinking. As with anything new, there isn’t just one formula for success.
Sure, an industry conference or a networking mixer are acceptable ways to meet people. There’s typically lots to be learned and a revolving door of new faces. However, if that’s the only place you’re building your network, you’re not pushing yourself to step outside your bounds.
Networking Is Not Limited to One Locale
Good networkers know that every situation is an opportunity to connect. Whether you’re at the store, a community or religious group event, your daughter’s dance recital, or a hotrod show, there’s a chance to build your network with new people.
Spontaneous interactions are casual, so they seem less like a chore. When you aren’t burdened by unwanted responsibilities, your mind is at its best and your interactions feel more authentic.
Build Your Network without Stressing
So, now that you know where to network, how do you keep the conversation from being another snippet of small talk?
Find common ground – There’s something you have in common; you just need to find it. Often, that first commonality is the situation that’s brought both of you together, but the aim is to segue into deeper territory. Whether it’s a shared profession, a mutual interest, or a similar background, you need to get to a more tenable topic of conversation.
Be confident steering the conversation – Every day conversation is shaped and directed. It doesn’t need to feel like you’re pulling a mule by the reins for you to steer the conversation. Just make a conscious effort to naturally shift the conversation in a way that lets you learn about the person’s professional life.
Have a business card ready – A physical reminder is still relevant in this day and age. Especially if you made a strong impression while networking. Make sure that your email and contact number are listed, as well as the address for your LinkedIn account or any professional website you might have.
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to build your network. Once you’ve made that first connection, be ready to put in the work to keep your relationships strong and effective.
That way, you’ll never be scrambling for new connections once your old job has soured. You’ll have a diverse web of people at your disposal who can help you move into the next phase of your life with relative ease.
by James Walsh