Networking can be a very big word and may even feel overwhelming when you hear it. It certainly brings up some questions. What does it mean to network? Do I need to have work experience first?
Throughout my 20+ years in the work world, I’ve identified a few key things that I have found to be really helpful and that also take some of the pressure off and I’d like to share these tips with you!
What is Networking?
When it comes down to it, networking is simply just having a conversation with someone. It’s connecting. It’s developing a relationship. When you are connecting with others, it helps to think of the connection as symbiotic; meaning that the connection goes both ways. This person may have information that can help you and you may have information that can help them (even at a later point).
One definition of networking that I like is: “interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.”
Pretty simple, right?
How to Talk About Yourself
When you are just getting started in your career you won’t always be clear about a purpose or mission in life, so just start with where you are today. It can feel a little awkward talking about yourself at first but the more you do it, the more comfortable and confident you will get.
A great place to start is by creating a mission statement; no matter where you are in life. This can be related to your interests in volunteer work, customer service, or work that you know you want to do in the future.
Here are a couple of examples of mission statements, “I help customers to optimize their XYZ product so that they can have a stellar customer experience!” or “I give back to my community so that I can help to enhance the quality of life for those struggling to make ends meet” or “My mission is to deliver innovative ideas that contribute to the evolution of XYZ technology.”
You can also just focus on your interests or top skills. What excites you or makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? What do you love to do? What tasks are you doing when you feel most productive and useful? These are all great clues about work that you are naturally good at or love to do and can more easily talk about with others. When you share more about your passions and interests, people will often want to know more about you and to help you along your path.
Still anxious about the idea of networking? Just start by asking questions. Ask people about themselves: what do they do for work? How was their weekend? What do they love to do in their free time? When you start the conversation, people will often start asking about you too!
How to Market Yourself
Marketing yourself can include a few things and it may be simpler than you think.
It can mean having an online presence. LinkedIn® is a wonderful resource for professionals. I always recommend that my clients keep an eye out for connection opportunities on LinkedIn®. An online presence can also mean having a website or a blog. Keep it professional yet informative—it’s also a great way to show more of your personality or style.
If you have a resume—get feedback, either from a professional resume writer or a mentor who can help you. When you are applying for jobs this is your ticket to landing an interview so you’ll want to make a great first impression.
Marketing yourself also means just simply showing up where you’ll have opportunities to connect. Join clubs, attend events, volunteer, or join outings. Just showing up can be the biggest part of getting connected with others. The key is to get in the habit of sharing more about yourself and what you are up to in the world so people know how to connect you (but also be curious about others). If you don’t enjoy joining groups, find an influencer—someone who can help to connect you with others. This could be someone you’ve worked for, a teacher, a mentor, or just someone that you admire and who is open to helping you.
Once you’ve made a connection, follow-up. This part is really important. People won’t know how to help you if you don’t ask. Thank them for their time and mention something you liked about the conversation or about their interests. If you are reaching out via email, there’s a great article with email templates from one of my favorite Career resources, The Muse, here: The Muse – Networking Email Templates.
Shannon empowers professionals to discover what they truly want in their careers so they can do fulfilling work on their own terms. www.shannon-rey.com