However, when it comes to using the term “networking”, I sit “bristling” on the same side of the fence with Jacqui. In How to Network Naturally, Jacqui says that there are “better ways to forge, cultivate and leverage value-add relationships . . .”. Dorlee opens her heart, shares her own experiences, and provides you with valuable takeaways on What I Learned the First Month of Job Search Journey, which is all about building meaningful, memorable and possibly, reciprocal connections with people. Finally, with a title like The Massage Guy and the Jackalope – A Job Search Networking Story, Jackie baits you, then reels you in, releasing you with a smile and three action points. (I’m not a fishing enthusiast, so why am I using a fishing analogy? Are you, Jackie?:))
What do these three posts have in common? In their own way, they all stress the soft skills of networking. Networking, whether it be for a new career, your business, or a charity, is so much more than committing to and attending a meeting, then madly dashing about, handing out your business cards as if you were handing out candy like a participant in a parade. It is also much more than collecting a stack of business cards, which you will only discard later.
It is not about writing an email that says, “I may have met you at today’s event, please consider donating to my ABC cause.” Nor is it about talking to a person—and I use that term loosely—all the while scanning the crowd to look for someone “better” to meet. (Networking is not a high school dance.)
Before your next encounter or event, spend some time reviewing, augmenting and reinforcing your soft skills. You can get better at networking if you remember what your momma taught you! (No, we didn’t speak that way at home – it just seemed to be a good fit for this post.)
- Mind your manners? (Hello, I’m _______. | Pleased to meet you. | Thank you for this conversation. | Excuse me. | I look forward to meeting you at _________. | Have you met ________, yet?) These conversational gambits provide the grease to help smooth out rough conversations. It’s not enough to just utter empty phrases. Speak from the heart and take a genuine interest in the person in front of you.
- Dress appropriately for the event? Clean, pressed clothing. You don’t have to step out of the pages of Vogue, but you can present yourself at your best. Many people pass judgement based upon how you look, so spend some time grooming. Have clean, well-trimmed finger and toe nails (yes, people do look!), check your hair and make-up.
- Ask questions because you are interested in the person in front of you? If you are shy, this is a perfect way to deflect the spotlight. Prepare in advance with some standard questions that will get the other person talking. (For how long have you been in business? | How did you get started doing what you do? | Have you always lived/worked here?) Once you are both speaking from the heart, the conversation begins to flow. Nervousness can evaporate because your attention is no longer on how awkward you feel. You are present and in the zone.
- Stay present? You’ll be memorable if you’re not, but not in the way you had hoped. People will remember how you made them feel – ignored or dismissed. In other words, feeling badly about their interaction with you. If you can’t stop scanning the room for someone “better” to speak with, you would benefit from learning some stress undressing techniques. You’ll learn a whole host of skills, in addition to how to be fully present and engaged in conversation.
- Follow up? Here’s where manners come into play again. Did someone get some information to you, even though it wasn’t related to their business, but because they knew it would help you? Did you acknowledge them for their time and effort?
If you find that you are missing a beat or two in the soft skills dance of networking, you’ll benefit from a five-hour, once weekly, personalized training program that will not only undress your stress, but also improve your performance.
You’ll see a change in the way you network; other people will feel the difference which will reveal an enriching networking portal through which you both can move with ease.