5 Tips for Successful Networking
Assistant Director of Career Counseling, Rita Soultanian, provides 5 quick tips to network well.
So you want to network? Not sure how? One of the most important things to remember is that networking is about a balance of give and take. Too often, I work with individuals who are eager to “take,” without putting in the effort to understand a new perspective or valuable piece of advice. Although enthusiasm is a wonderful asset, I’m here to remind you that an effective networking relationship is born out of preparedness, courage, and a willingness to give a little, too.
1. SELF-REFLECT AND PROCEED WITH CARE.
A great place to start is with a little self-reflection. What is it exactly that you hope to gain from your potential networking contact? Information on his or her professional career path? Guidance on how to advance your own career? Tips on a job search? Without a clear objective, it’s difficult to ask the right question and a potential contact may see this as a shortcoming. Spend a little time reflecting on your own interests, values, and strengths, so you can craft your approach thoughtfully. Once you’ve made a powerful request, take some time to ask your new contact about his or her interests. In fact, do your research and devise specific questions to gain a deeper understanding of this person’s specific expertise. Demonstrating your capacity to utilize effective interpersonal skills will set you apart.
2. BE AUTHENTIC.
People are interested in connecting with someone who’s willing to be honest rather than someone who is only in it to “look good.” Don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember that even mid to senior level professionals were once in your position.
3. BE INTERESTED, NOT INTERESTING.
I’m not saying don’t be interesting at all, but to tip the scales in favor of being more interested in what the other person has to say. Though it’s your job to introduce yourself compellingly, remember that asking thoughtful questions about a particular career field or common subject of interest will go a long way. Plus, this will take the pressure off of you, and you can get to the fun part of hearing more about a professional career path of interest to you.
4. OFFER SOMETHING IN RETURN.
A networking relationship is a two-way street. If you ask for advice, a referral, or professional feedback, it is important to offer your own services in return. You may not feel like you have much to give, but perhaps you can share some updates about your academic department if you’re interacting with an alum contact, or an article you’ve read recently that would be interesting to your potential new friend. Since you’re at the forefront of academia and knowledge, it’s valuable to offer your perspective as a student, or as someone from the younger generation. Another idea is to offer to volunteer with your new contact’s organization, or connect them to other resources you may be aware of.
5. HAVE FUN!
I realize it can be scary to network with professionals, but the more you allow yourself to experience the present moment, the easier it is to let go of your fear. When you have fun your passion and interest in the other person and their expertise will be apparent. In fact, learning to enjoy yourself while networking makes all the other steps a breeze.
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