3 Steps to Successful Networking*
*…for people who hate networking, the holidays, their jobs…but know that time’s a-wasting!
Aw, Sunshine. I know how it is: the holidays bring serious pressure, combined with the realization that soon it’ll be a brand new year, with brand new
regrets opportunities. And let’s not even talk about that this new year includes a presidential election…yipee. Months and months of watching your Facebook newsfeed blow up with stupid people determined to share their stupidity with the rest of us. #Rage
Given all of that, I know that when I suggest, with a straight face, that after an exhausting day at work, you should go network with strangers from your college/grad school or professional association…I know that quite a few of you are fervently hoping I get the comeuppance I clearly so richly deserve.
But too bad, boys and girls: I nag because you’re worth it. And I have a pretty handy right hook, so check yourself. Anyhoo, listen, I know that networking isn’t always fantastic, but you know what’s worse? Spending another year of your life hating your job. Networking can be nerve-wracking, but I’d personally take networking any day of the week, over spending even one day, working at a job that makes me long for a stroke. Networking can suck, but damning yourself to a lifetime of misery is so much worse.
With all of that in mind, I’m going to share 3 solid tips to successful networking this holiday season, specifically aimed at those of you who aren’t exactly sure what you want. (If you actually do know what kind of job you’d like, leave me a message in the comments, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be happy to send you some personalized tips. Don’t say I never do anything nice for you.)
- Immediately sign up for your (college/grad school) alumni/professional association’s holiday party. Don’t think about it, don’t put it off, but right now go to your local alumni’s association website/Facebook page/LinkedIn group and buy your ticket and go. (If your alumni association(s) doesn’t have a local branch, or that branch isn’t throwing a holiday party, you’re not off the hook: why not organize a New Year’s Networking Potluck party? Why not seriously consider organizing a branch, and/or running for a position on the board? That way, in future, you can organize events that reflect and propel your interests.) Let’s face it: actually attending a networking event is really half the battle. Many people think that they need to know exactly what kind of job they’re looking for, or they have to know exactly what to say…but honestly, a great deal of life is showing up. A great deal of success in our life is directly traceable to allowing your life to happen, and doing your best with what you have. Don’t tell me how bored or frustrated you are in your life/career, as you sit at home, putting up walls, determined to keep the world out.
- Review the guest list, and make a decision to speak to at least one new person. Browbeat, Bribe, Encourage a friend to go with you, and then at the bar, split up and each of you go speak to one other human being. Not sure what to say? How about, “Hello?” How about, “My name is…what’s yours?” Some people say they hate small talk, so hold on while I blow your mind: don’t engage in any. Engage in interesting conversations. Now, ideally, if you have a game plan to your networking, if you’re in pursuit of a specific opportunity, it’s best to attend these events with your elevator speech, but networking is a process. And the best way to start the process, is to actually go to a few of these events, and talk to other people. You might be shocked by how many other people you’ll meet who also have no plan. So much of what stops people from networking is this destructive, self-imposed self-disgust, this fear that other people will see through them. Meh. Again, that’s now how the world works. Most people are thinking about themselves, not you. Most people are wondering if they can eat their body weight in shrimp. Not sure what to say? Join the crowd. Grab some business cards, smile make eye contact and start a conversation by saying, “Hey, my name is….and I never really know what to talk about at these events.”
- Afterwards, if you spoke to even just one person, follow up with them the next day. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Send a personalized email to keep the conversation going. Then consider: was the evening really as horrendous as you anticipated? This might be an excellent time to realize that no one can thwart your ambitions like you can. You got out of your comfort zone, went networking, and probably didn’t cry in public. I’m not saying you met the love of your life, or had some mad real night… but perhaps you met one or two people who were pleasant. Humor me and sign up for some more networking events. Start thinking about what exactly you’d change in your career situation if you could do anything. But then again, who says you can’t do anything? Who, besides yourself, is stopping you? You went networking, and didn’t die. What happens if you attend one networking party this holiday, actually allow yourself to enjoy it, and realize, crucially, that the only person who thinks you can’t do anything, the only person keeping you stuck…is you? #GetToWork