Do you turn off the camera during Zoom meetings?
Does the idea of striking up conversations with a room full of random people make you want to stay at home in your PJs?
Some people can’t get enough of networking, while others…not so much. Unfortunately for the more introverted folks, networking is pretty much a career necessity if you want to have the best chance for success. But networking doesn’t have to be a struggle. With the right approach, it can be manageable and even rewarding.
No one ever made it to the top on their own — we need people. Let that motivate you to start making connections, whether it’s online or in-person.
At DotConnect, we believe that networking isn’t as hard as some make it out to be, but it can still be a significant investment of time and energy. You really want to strategize and make sure you’ve got an approach that gets results.
For the best chance for success, let’s take a look at some ground rules for networking effectively!
Make the Time
Networking doesn’t happen overnight. It happens slowly, which means you have to consistently carve out time for it. It’s better to network a little bit every day, week, or month than it is to attend a three-day conference once a year.
Breaking down your networking into manageable chunks will make it less intimidating.
Try combining different tactics and channels of communication. You might try setting aside one hour a week for emails and Facebook groups, an afternoon for a webinar once a month, and a weekend for a yearly conference (either in-person or virtual).
We know you have a busy schedule, and it’s all too easy to put networking off — especially if you’re more of an introvert than an extrovert. However, you need to block off time in your calendar regularly and actually follow through with it.
To keep yourself accountable, always remember the end goal. Just like you can use a picture of your ideal body to motivate your workouts, imagine the results you’ll get from networking.
There’s evidence that networking can help you be more successful, including getting leadership positions, promotions, and a higher salary. The webinar you’ve been putting off is looking more appealing, isn’t it?
One-sided friendships never last, and one-sided professional connections don’t either!
Give as much as you receive. Better yet, start with giving before you ask for something in return. You will stand out so much more than everyone else.
Of course, you want to do this within reason and not burn yourself out with over-giving. But a small gesture — such as sharing the name of a resource, training program, or other opportunity in response to a Facebook post — can set you off on the right foot and lower anyone’s guard.
When it comes to places where you’re a repeat visitor — such as an Instagram or Facebook group — your reputation matters a lot. If you have a track record of being helpful and generous, it makes it so much easier to establish connections.
Also, if you’re just starting out and looking for more mentoring than networking, never ask someone who has more experience than you if you can “pick their brain” for free. If you really have more to gain than give, offer to pay them for their time. Everyone’s busy, and no one likes being asked to give away information and time out of the kindness of their heart.
In all cases, just remember the golden rule: Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Give to others what you wish people would give to you, and be the person that you want to meet.
Use a Variety of Channels
LinkedIn isn’t the only option for networking.
Mainstream social media — while crowded — is still a great platform for professional networking. Join Facebook groups, search for keywords on Twitter, and follow industry leaders on Instagram to build a thriving online community.
Private Slack communities are an often overlooked networking opportunity. Joining a common-interest slack channel opens you up to conversations and connections without the spam of social media groups and the need to compete for attention. Find a Slack community that gets you excited about your industry — there are plenty to choose from.
If you belong to an underrepresented group, take advantage of every resource out there. They exist for a reason, so check out organizations like Ladies Get Paid and Blacks in Tech. Not only are they great resources to help you overcome discrimination, but you will also network with people in your same demographic.
Beyond online communities, look to the usual suspects — conferences, workshops, masterminds, and in-person events.
Don’t be afraid to be creative, and don’t assume your contacts will come through strictly professional groups. Join meetups and events for people who have similar interests to yours, and consider it a way to meet new friends. In that relaxed setting, you may end up meeting someone who connects you to your new boss.
When waiting for the outcome of any endeavor, it’s important to have a light touch.
That means you put in enough effort to affect the outcome positively, but not so much that you impatiently pull at any new connection buds before they’re ready to blossom.
Networking is like watering a garden. You won’t see the flowers bloom immediately — you have to tend to your garden patiently first. Reach out and water your budding relationships from time to time with a quick email to say hello. Give them enough nourishment to keep growing, but don’t overwater them.
Too much attention and overbearing follow-ups can kill a connection. Find the balance that will keep your budding relationship healthy for the long run.
A great way to do this is to release expectations as much as possible before you go to an event or engage in a conversation — this is also great if you struggle with socializing and self-confidence.
Know what you’d like to have to happen, and prepare for it, but take the pressure off by viewing the experience as an experiment. Maybe you’ll get something out of it; maybe you won’t.
Take things as they come, and be grateful for even small nuggets of wisdom that you get.
Take the Focus Off of You
Having a relaxed approach to networking will serve you better than having a pressured, stressed-out one.
One way to be more relaxed is to stop thinking so much about yourself. When you direct your attention inwards, it creates self-consciousness, self-criticism, and self-judgment. When you direct your attention outwards, your thoughts and conversation will likely flow more smoothly.
Most people gauge whether or not they were successful at a networking event by thinking about how many connections they made, how many cards they gave out, and how they appeared to other people.
But what if you gauge your success based on more realistic standards that also feel good to you?
At the end of an event, ask yourself if you made one meaningful connection, heard one idea that inspired you, or if you were able to help someone else with their goals. That feels much better right?
The good thing about this approach is that it will probably make you more radiant, positive, and confident, which is very attractive to others.
And if it doesn’t? You still saved yourself from unnecessary stress, pressure, and self-criticism for “failing.” Besides, even a single connection or inspired idea could end up being a goldmine for you if you let it.
Visualize Your Goal
While this last tip may seem a little contradictory to releasing expectations and focusing on others, it’s a powerful practice.
Visualization is a technique where you picture something you want to happen in your mind’s eye. You might picture a conversation going well, a situation unfolding successfully or the way you handle a difficult situation effortlessly.
We’re always visualizing, whether we know it or not. Usually, we do it unconsciously — like when we worry about a conversation and imagine worst-case scenarios. You can turn that around and instead imagine best-case scenarios. How would that look? How would it feel?
The key to successful visualization is relaxation. You want to get into a relaxed, comfortable state through a few minutes of breathing and meditation. When you visualize, do so for a few minutes or for however long feels good. You do want the process to feel good, not stressful — that’s counterproductive.
When you’re done, go ahead and let go of expectations. This balancing act between setting intentions and opening to whatever happens is key to getting what you want out of life.
Partner With DotConnect to Maximize Your Networking Opportunities
So here you are — ready to plant new seeds of connection and forge your dream alliances! That’s great news. Being proactive about your dreams will help you realize them more quickly, and it will feel so good to know you’re taking steps in that direction.
Never underestimate the power of connection. Behind every successful, powerful person is a rich tapestry of experiences and people who opened doors for them.
Learning to network well is probably one of the most important professional skills you’ll ever have. But it takes time to master. If you have no time to waste and you’re looking for your dream team, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Our Talent Advisors are masters at aligning you with the right people.
Looking for talent? We have the tools you need to build connections and help you grow! We’ve helped amazing businesses like Samsung NEXT, Beautycounter, and Zendesk grow their dream teams, and we’d love to help you too!