Career Advice Tips to be more productive

Networking Tips You've Got to Try

Everyone seems to know someone who is a natural extrovert. He or she can work a crowd with ease, maneuvering their way around a room full of strangers without breaking a sweat, and walk away with a new contact or connection. This confidence and comfort around strangers is certainly due in part to natural ability, but socially-based success is a behaviour that can be learned and perfected over time. Mastering the art of networking requires some concerted effort on your part, but the far-reaching benefits of effective networking, in both life and the workplace, are more than worth the effort. Here are a few simple tactics that can help you become a more self-assured networker. 

First things first, and this is the easiest of all to learn: Know when not to network. Do not attempt to network when you're having a bad day or when you're in a bad mood. Unless you are absolutely required to attend an event, it might be best to get out of the obligation as it's fairly easy for others to pick up on anxiety, stress, and negativity. This is definitely not the first impression you want to make with a potential contact. Not only can a bad disposition alter what you say, or how you say it, a poor mood can affect your facial expressions, body language, tone, and ability to listen effectively. If you really must go to a meeting or gathering after work, get serious about shaking that bad mood off. Try hitting the gym, listening to upbeat music, taking a walk, or watching a few funny videos or comedy skits until you're sure you can put your best face forward.

Moving to a slightly more complicated tactic, try to remember that the key to being a great networker is projecting a personable and likeable image. A study by a professor at Princeton has shown that people can judge how friendly, trustworthy, and competent you are after seeing your face for less than a tenth of a second. Think about that for a moment. It means that the instant someone sees your face, they’ve decided whether or not they trust and like you. This means that your facial expressions matter, and they matter a significant amount. A smiling and happy face can go a long way in building rapport with others. However, you don’t have to walk around the room with a grin plastered on your face. You must also seem genuine. Try a neutral, light expression. Next, try to find ways to make others feel good about themselves. Ask questions about them and listen carefully for ways to connect; either by finding common ground or by giving positive feedback. If someone says they enjoy mentoring others, ask how they’ve made an impact and finish by discussing how they’ve changed their community or organisation.

Lastly, and most importantly for the long run, follow up! The easiest part of networking is often what we think is the most difficult: meeting and talking to people. The hardest part is really what pays off in the long run: building and maintaining a relationship or connection. No, not everyone you meet is going to become a trusted advisor or friend. In fact, it’s likely most of the people you meet will be just a one-time or an occasional connection. However, if there’s someone you find particularly interesting, establish and maintain your contact and connection. Researchers have established that it takes contact every two weeks in order to maintain a close friendship. In networking, these individuals aren’t going to be close friends, but you need to occasionally touch base with a professional contact from time to time. Not only do you want to ensure they remember you, but you want to continue building the relationship over time as well. 

Many opportunities, both professional and personal, arise based on who you know. Becoming a great networker can put you a step ahead of the crowd. Set yourself up by being aware of the external stressors that affect how you appear and behave, and put your best foot (and mood) forward. Find ways to connect to others by focusing on being likable and making a great impression on others. And lastly, close the loop by staying in touch for the long haul.