Not sure where to start when it comes to networking? There are some parallels between networking and dating. Both are centered on meeting new people and building meaningful relationships with one-time strangers. Not all networking interactions will lead to long-lasting relationships (just like dating), though there will be some that will extend beyond that first initial contact. Here are several key tips to keep in mind next time you find yourself interested in expanding your social circles and social interests.
- Make the first move. To get a conversation going, one person needs to make the pivotal first move. Why not you? Conversation starters come in all shapes and sizes. From, Eminem’s wisdom, “Hi, my name is…” to the almost creepy, “Have I met you before? You look familiar,” networking can lead to happy endings. You could have him/her at “hello.”
- Ask questions and listen. Get to know the person you just met. Ask them where they’re from, what they do, what brings them to the event you’re at, whatever comes to mind. Just ask! Avoid the awkward silences. Keep the conversation flowing by showing interest in the person you’re talking to. Be interested, not interesting. The key to building relationships is listening. Ask the questions, then listen.
- Be honest. To yourself and others. This is a cardinal rule of life in general. Nobody likes liars and it’s easy to spot a liar. Believe it or not, it’s easier to tell the truth than to lie. There may be instances during your communication with others where you’d rather fib about your experience level or even insecurities, but it’s always best to share the real you. Plus, you’ll never find a mentor if you pretend you already know it all.
- Stay informed on current events. There’s nothing like talking with someone with nothing to talk about. Great conversations can start from talking about current events. Politics and religion can be sketchy subjects, but sticking to TV shows, that amazing movie that just came out, or ASDA’s “best week ever,” can start a worthwhile friendly conversation.
- Be willing to explore new interests. Oftentimes the people you speak to might have interests that you don’t share. Though some interests take time to develop, there are some interests that don’t take much effort or time at all. For example, someone you meet might talk about their interest in photography. Give it a try and branch out and take pictures of things around you. This will allow you to share photos with your networking buddy in the future.
- Show, don’t tell. People will formulate an opinion of you in the first 5 minutes of meeting you. How you present yourself is essential to the image you’re trying to share to people. There are many ways to show who you are, whether it be through how you dress, smile, a firm handshake, nonverbal communication and/or listening. Show your personal attributes, don’t tell them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Don’t take things personally. Sometimes, meeting someone new doesn’t lead to future correspondence. Just like dating, networking can result in a “No, I’m not interested.” And that’s okay. Learn from your networking experience and move on. If it’s not a right fit, don’t try to force it.
- Follow up. Nothing’s worse than having a hook, line and sinker moment, and not reeling it in. Respectfully get a phone number, business card, Twitter handle, or Facebook follow and contact that person in the next few days and thank them for the great conversation you had a few nights prior. If you’re not following up, your networking efforts have gone to waste.
Whether you’re looking for new networking opportunities or a future companion, I’m sure these tips will help you along the way. One of the biggest hurdles to jump over is that first step by saying “hello.” Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” It behooves you to step outside your comfort zone and put yourself out there for the world to see. A simple “hello” could lead to a million things. Get out there and start dating… I mean, networking.
ASDA has amazing resources and videos to help you take your networking skills to a whole new level. ASDA’s website has a page dedicated to networking, along with a YouTube page filled with fun networking tutorials. Do you have networking tips to share with our readers? Leave them in the comments below!
~Jay Banez, Marquette ’16, electronic editor