People keep asking me about networking. It is one if those buzz words that people are not quite sure what it means. I have my own ideas how to do it and it works for me. Read on and find out more about them. They may work for you too.
The definition of networking by Wikipedia: “Business networking is a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. A business network is a type of social network whose reason for existing is business activity.” The main word in this definition is social. Keep this in mind while at the event or writing emails. People are not really interested in helping you find the job but they are interested in knowing somebody fun and entertaining.
The biggest mistake I see people making while networking is the focus on job and only job. This makes you boring. You need to show off your personality, your skills, wit and make people like you. You will be more interesting if you find some common interests with the person you are talking to. It can be anything: travelling, children, knitting, movies you love/hate, having a brother/sister, volunteering, ideas, problems etc. Talk about what you did a day before or what sparked your interests on the news. However small and insignificant you think it is –there is somebody out there who thinks the same and will relate to you.
Do not stick to people who came from the same country as you did. It is normal that you connect easier with them but don’t overdo it. You will exclude everybody else if you keep talking in your language. Stay together but speak English and try to include others in your conversation. Canada is a country of diversity and you have to keep that in mind if you want to succeed.
Go to many different events, not just once related to your industry or interests. Whatever the industry you are in, there are not that many events exclusive to your industry. You need to go to other events and socialize. People have different interests and you may find a CEO of high-tech company attending gardening show. Be open-minded and don’t judge people hastily but try to get to know them first. You will be surprised by interesting conversation you can have with even a homeless person on the street.
Volunteering helped me establish many connections. It shows your good will to share and help without asking for anything in return. Don’t expect to connect to people and get a great reference right away. You need to show your value and work hard first. References and help will come somewhere down the line. You need to build the relationship first (respect, trust, reliability etc).
If you are very shy and conversation is a challenge, try to find at least one person to talk to. It can be a greeter at the door or a sales person advertising the new product. You need to start somewhere. Pick anybody and try to ask for some information (where is the washroom?). There are also event organizers that you can find and tell how great event they organized. Everybody likes to hear the praise. I found sometimes that commenting on somebody’s jewellery or clothes can spark an interesting conversation.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the explanation. English is a second language for most of the Canadians and it is normal to ask for the clarification. You will show you are interested in what other person is saying and that you are listening carefully. There is no shame in being challenged by new language. If the other person cannot help you with the small explanation, she will not help in the other things either.
There are the days when we feel blue and nothing is right. Do not attend any events if you are in such a mood. You will leave a bad impression. If there is a way to cheer you up with a run or some other physical activity, do it. We are very sensitive to the energy people are projecting. You need to keep your energy positive if you want to meet new people. I read about the tactic politician use: if there is person with negative energy in the room or somebody start a negative conversation at an important event, they immediately move away and change topic, keeping they attitude positive.
If you are having hard time socializing, you will have a hard time networking. The best way to overcome this is to keep trying. I found these things help me: concentrate on social aspect, talk about things you are genuinely interested in, don’t talk only about your search for job, listen and make sure you understand other people at the event, relax and find at least one person to talk to. You will know you succeeded once you start having fun and looking forward going to the gardening show even though you still hate to garden.