Some are simply born to be networkers; others see it as a chore. But networking, scary as it may sound, is simply a fancy word for meeting new people. Conferences, cocktail parties, the office kitchen, and even airport lounges are all fair game for finding that captive audience to help with your next career move.
With a little practice, anyone can become a seasoned pro at rubbing elbows.
Habit 1: Make the most of travel time.
Most people cringe at making small talk on an airplane, but it is a great place for organic networking. I once sat next to a recruiter for a five-hour flight and left with a job offer!
Whether it be a train, plane, or an airport lounge, don’t dress down—it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t usually cross paths with.
Habit 2: Learn how to work a room.
I try to pick one to three people and make sure I know what they look like, and something about their recent work. If it’s a relationship I’m seeking, it’s better to think about what I can offer them. I’m a big fan of suggesting an email, book, or website for people—the more off-the-beaten track, the better.
I try to not have ‘event FOMO’ (fear of missing out) and instead try to have interesting conversations with whoever ends up near me. These serendipitous encounters usually lead to opportunities!
Habit 3: Don’t underestimate the power of the follow-up.
“I find it difficult to carry around tons of business cards. I will usually email the person right when I meet them so they have my information. I find that if a person really wants to connect with you, they will email you back and set up a time to meet.
Follow the person on Twitter or LinkedIn, and give them a shout-out for the interesting conversation.
Habit 4: Seek connections at all levels.
“The most successful networking relationships are with those who are at your own or a similar level. Make authentic relationships—honestly, it looks more like friendships—with people. Go into any networking situation with the approach that this person will be a friend, rather than someone to check off a list.
Do not assume that you shouldn’t speak to someone because they don’t have a top-notch position or are at a company you have never heard of. Networking is about keeping an open mind and heart.