Networking Know How posted 08/29/16

By Julia Carr

A large number of people report that networking makes them feel immoral and guilty, not to mention anxious and inept. Conversely, the majority of jobs are never advertised publicly, and it has been proven that networking leads to significant advantages in the hiring process. Because you’re likely to never outgrow its benefits, here are five tips for surviving the agony of your next networking event.

Do research and set manageable expectations

Before attending, identify what you want in the long term (a different job, information about a new role, greater responsibility, etc.) and, if you have access to a guest list, read up on the backgrounds of people whose interests overlap with yours. Direct your efforts towards laying a foundation for your ultimate goals through targeted interactions–introducing yourself to a few potential mentors, exchanging contact information, discussing their previous jobs–rather than attempting to secure a promotion in two hours.

Use positive body language and observe physical cues in others

Position yourself in a way that is expansive and open (ie, don’t cross arms or feet) and smile. You’ll project authority and receptivity to interaction. When talking, observe any similarities between you and your conversation partner in posture or gestures, and see if you can subtly mimic a move of theirs.

A Stanford University study found that pairs who exhibit synchronous body language are more inclined to build trust and achieve success when collaborating.

Know yourself and don’t oversell

Aim to have three or four organic conversations in which you are able to make a short pitch for yourself–who you are, what your work history is, why someone should help you, etc. Don’t try to speak to everyone there, don’t overuse business cards, don’t overdress, and don’t push people to create connections that are not there. Make the process as natural as possible.

Practice good listening skills

A large part of networking is listening to other people as they discuss their own careers and the people they know who can help you. You probably think you are a better listener than you really are so make a conscious effort to practice participatory listening and avoid dominating a conversation. When a person feels heard and understood, he or she is more likely to lend you assistance in the form of an introduction, informational interview, etc.

Follow-up afterward

Networking is about creating lasting, useful relationships rather than fulfilling immediate professional aspirations. Maximize connections by staying in touch with the people you have met. Send initial emails after the event thanking contacts for their time, and periodically check-in in the following months. Describe what you are doing, particularly if it coincides with hiring needs they have or opportunities they are pursuing.

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