The buzz of the business world is all about “social networking.” And to me, many times, these words conjure situations that are anything but “social.” I often think of corporate jargon, slickly styled online profiles, and general fakeness. Not that I’m knocking social networking completely, but in my experience, networking face-to-face, while having its limitations, is so much more effective than conducting your elbow-rubbing online. Here are a few tips that helped me.
- 1. Networking is about sincerely making acquaintances in your target industry, not about getting a job.
I don’t particularly like the word “networking” because it always connotes to me this idea of exchanging and creating a contrived connection. Whenever I’m meeting new folks in my industry, I simply do what I what do with people who are not in my industry. Be friendly, be engaging, and above all, be sincere.
- 2. You don’t have to drink, but learn to be around people who do.
In my experience, networking that turns into either a friendship or a helpful business contact always starts at a casual environment, and usually over drinks. I’m not saying that you have to drink to network, but, and especially in some industries, this is how networking is done. As such, either learn to drink or to be around and engaged with people who do.
- 3. Find other things in common beyond work-related issues.
Nobody wants to talk about work all the time. And that includes people who like to network. Whenever I’m networking, I always try to find other things in common, whether it is having young children, being involved with certain hobbies, or sports and current events. Engaging someone from all perspectives is always a good idea while trying to find out more information about your industry or future career path.
- 4. Transition to an online contact, so you keep in touch.
If you’ve successfully interested whoever you are talking to, you should receive a business card or some other form of contact information. I usually offer to be added on Facebook or LinkedIn, if they don’t ask me to do so first. If I’m asked to do the adding, I always remember to do so as soon as possible, since people can easily forget each other after such short contact.
Solid networking, of course, happens in very surprising places and with surprising people. My rule of thumb is to be open to talking to everyone—you never know where it’ll get you.