Networking effectively is important to succeed in any line of business, yet many people fear putting themselves into uncharted waters and meeting unfamiliar faces.
Think back to the last networking event you attended, perhaps it was a conference or new product launch party. Did you look new faces in the eyes as you spoke and stood with confidence? Did you ‘work’ the room by engaging others in a lively conversation while actively listening?
If your answers to any of these questions was no, you more than likely loathe networking—and rightly so. Without the proper tools of engagement, networking can seem downright scary. Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
You can put your fears to rest by applying these three tips to network for success.
- Know your personal value proposition. What skills, unique talents, strengths, experience and connections do you offer? Similar to a 30-second ‘elevator speech,’ a personal value proposition is a ‘commercial’ that says who you are, what you’re looking for and how you can benefit a company or organization. Practice it with family members, colleagues or by yourself until you can say it confidently and succinctly.
If you’re attending an event with the intent to connect with someone in particular, map out what you need to discuss and how you could potentially help them. Knowing your value proposition and having a plan means you won’t choke when you meet the person who could be very valuable to you.
- Open up. While your goal may be to land a new job or procure a contact at a target account, take a few steps towards establishing a relationship. Being open and honest is critical to fostering respect, and a surefire way to make meaningful connections is to, ‘Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves,’ which is Dale Carnegie’s 7th Human Relations principle. Asking new contacts questions about where they work; what they are most passionate about; and even their vantage on industry-specific topics such as trends, risks, opportunities, etc. demonstrates that you value them.
- Never pass on a person. When attending a networking event, check your ego at the door. Don’t dismiss a person simply because of their title, e.g. ‘coordinator’ or ‘clerk,’ because you never know how they may be able to help you in the future. Likewise, don’t be afraid to approach people with titles that reveal they are ranked higher than you within their organization. By becoming ‘genuinely interested in other people,’ Mr. Carnegie’s 4th principle, you will be able to uncover if this person has valuable connections or information that could benefit you.
Having a personal value proposition prepared and being completely open will enable you to make more meaningful connections and put your networking fears to rest.