The observation for the uncertain
Networking is a useful tool, I believe that you should always network whenever you can. I heard of many stories and have some of my own about the power of networking. One is someone I know who is under 30 but the CEO of an internet company with around 30 employees in Azerbaijan who acknowledges the power of networking in his career advancement. (story in the future)
Many of us attend certain events and then wish to meet new people or expand our network. However most times most of us, especially the younger ones, get into a situation where we run out of words or nerves to talk to someone we think influential, like the speaker or possibly someone in a much higher ranking than us and out of our 2nd degree circle. Often times we want to get their advice hear something astounding and insightful but we have no way of knowing how to get that from them.
Most events I attend, I notice that a lot of these younger people stick to the people who are like them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it’s a great way to meet friends and meet like-minded people. However we also forget or discount, the potential value we can get from networking outside our circle and comfort zone.
Here I write 5 things I observe that could help those who are uncertain about how to start networking in an event.
1)Set targets or goals if you can
This is important because having a goal can give you an idea of what you want to happen or see from your networking. If you have a goal, you can have a plan and you can achieve better results.
2) Do your homework
If you are attending an orientation, at least have a background on what the orientation is about. Briefly reading up about the speaker will sometimes help as well. This will not only make you understand the topic better but also find a connection.
3) Pay attention and look for points of interest
If it’s a seminar or orientation, listening carefully will really help in finding a key or interesting point you would like to talk about to your other peers. It’s also a great way to learn. It doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to talk expertly about something that catches your interest. You can ask more about it or find an opinion regarding the topic.
3) Look for similarities, find a connection.
Similarities extend beyond background similarities in age, gender, or industry or professional interests. If you’re not so sure, or you don’t want to say something completely irrelevant, then go back to the theme of the event.
My student organization AIESEC provided online platforms for learning and virtual teams. After one of those sessions and discussions, I talked to one of the facilitators and asked about her background and aspirations and found out she was taking masters for labor economics in Chile. Some months after, my thesis group had problems with our thesis paper and I remembered her. She was kind enough to help us out and our thesis was a success!
4) The power of a smile and eye contact.
Simple stuff like eye contact and a smile can help you. For one it says you are approachable. Other people are just looking for that opening being unsure themselves.
5) Small talk
Yes that “what do you do?” it’s always the ice breaker. People usually find similarities between each other with a simple question about who they are.
During one breakfast in a conference in India, there was this girl who was completely different from all of us in the table only because she ate alone and she was obviously from a different country. Everyone was hurrying as the conference was about to start but I asked her simple questions. What country are you from, and what kind of delegate are you. Turns out she was a recruitment coordinator for a leadership program of an Indian multi-national company and wanted to ask us about recruiting candidates in the country. The program sadly didn’t make it, but certain lessons did.
One important note, the skill of networking is like everything else. Practice. You can make mistakes, you can say something you feel incredibly stupid but it’s part of the learning. You can’t just learn networking from a book or an article. Sometimes it just makes you stiff and lack character. you have to go out and do it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, everyone says something stupid now and then.