Flashback to college, and we’re told great networking will lead to our dream job. We hear: “Always follow up with a thank you note,” and “Never ask for a job!”
Personally, this bugs me. Is networking all about checking off the right boxes? And am I going to miss any steps?
Also, how often have you heard the story of random girl sitting next to random lady on a plane, walking off with a business card, and scoring the job of her dreams? What did she do right, and how I can do that?
Successful networking is important, but what makes it successful? And, how can it feel more natural?
We can reach out to our LinkedIn contacts, put ourselves out there and send thank you cards all day long, but we need intention, mutual interests, and more giving versus taking.
Here are three questions you should answer to build more authentic relationships.
What’s Your Mission?
Before you sign up for every event under the sun and reach out to multiple contacts, take a step back. What are you trying to achieve? If you’re looking for a job, start thinking bigger. What’s the problem you want to solve, and how can you do that through the work you want to find?
For example, you may be a recent graduate looking for digital marketing experience. Find companies whose missions resonate with you and the work you want to do. As you approach potential contacts in that area, speak about why you’re interested in digital marketing and why this specific company is on your list. How can you contribute to their work, and how do your interests align with the company’s mission?
What Don’t You Know? Don’t Hide It, Share It
The most uncomfortable aspect of networking is feeling like we need to impress. “I have to sound smart. That’s how I’ll land the gig.”
This approach is flawed. In this scenario, not only are we being inauthentic, but we’re probably feeling pretty awkward; the other person can sense that.
Let’s change the game. Be completely honest about what you don’t know, and use this networking experience to fill in your knowledge gaps.
For example, perhaps you’re interested in the fashion industry, but don’t know where the industry is headed. Or, you’re unsure of the challenges brick and mortar stores are facing. Share that knowledge gap by asking questions. People love sharing their expertise.
Not only can you use these connections to learn and grow, but you’ll be authentic, which leads to a higher chance of building a sustainable relationship.
What Do You Have to Offer?
We’re all in a position to offer something. Reach out with the mindset of “How can I help you?” versus “I need a job.”
This is much easier to accomplish when you take a genuine interest in your contact. Ask her about her interests, goals, and challenges, and you’ll discover what her needs are. You can always offer your time or volunteer if her goals are in alignment with what you’re looking to learn.
In Conclusion: To “Network” Successfully
Making connections can be uncomfortable no matter where you’re at with your career and life. The key is to focus on quality versus quantity, and approach making connections as a way to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.