With the holidays upon us – spending time with family, exchanging gifts and reveling in the warmth of season – I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity. And I’ve begun to realize that networking has parallels to the generous cheer associated with the holidays.
Networking, too, is about generosity… a willingness to give without expecting something in return.
In the spirit of the holiday cheer and giving that surrounds us, here are some tips on becoming a networking natural…
- Network Full Time
Networking doesn’t begin and end with an event; networking is a full time job. Strengthening connections doesn’t just happen when you need something; it occurs anytime you go out of your way to help someone. Take a moment out of your day to be a listening ear for your friend, refer a contact to a relevant job posting, or send a colleague an valuable article.
- Soul Search
Do a little soul-searching. Understand what your value is. Think about your strengths, talents and connections. Even as an early-career networker, you have confidence, ambition and generosity to offer. People will take note and will want to stay in touch.
- Ditch the Agenda
You might be tempted to talk to people who can help you. Suppress this urge; forget the schmoozing. People will be wary of what you want from them. Don’t worry about being a little awkward. It makes the situation a little less stiff. Integrity and generosity are attractive qualities, and people will remember you.
- Actively Listen
Really listen to what people tell you. Don’t dismiss anyone or any topic as irrelevant. You may learn they have interests that align with someone else you know. When that happens, don’t hesitate to connect the two people. After all, the best way to network is to find a way to be helpful.
- Talk About What You Can Do
Consider preparing a few talking points prior to any networking opportunity. Try two to three sentences describing your strengths and talents or even your thoughts on an interesting (but relevant) article or report. Be mindful of how often and when you bring these snippets up. Keep the focus on what you can do rather than what you have done in the past. Don’t sound boastful; you want to come off as forward-thinking and energetic.
- Offer Personalized Help
While you may be the one networking to find a job opportunity, always approach new contacts with the attitude of being ready to help. Feel free to explicitly ask what you can do for your contact. What resources can you recommend? What tips and tools can you offer up? Your contact will both appreciate your personal attention.
Always follow up after meeting new people or engaging with existing contacts. Connect with them on LinkedIn, send them an email or follow them on Twitter. Let them know you enjoyed chatting and that you wish to stay in contact. Reference your conversation and demonstrate how you will continue to help by sending an article or report that digs into an element of your discussion.
There you have it… networking, holiday-style. Happy Holidays and happy networking!