Meeting people in your field is extremely important. Not only does it provide the opportunity to learn about new trends, practices at other companies and how different people feel about any new industry developments, but it can help with professional enhancement. Some people find that networking with others can boost their careers as they discover new ideas and can then bring them back to their employers. Others like to connect with like-minded individuals; in some industries, particularly the more obscure, this can help enhance relationships that may lead to opportunities, said The Balance. The goal of attending a networking event or taking the time to shmooze with those in your field is not to have a new collection of business cards, but to show your boss and peers that you care about your career.
Some people loathe getting together in groups and trying to talk to other professionals. Others love it, but many people simply aren't familiar with best practices. Whether you're heading to your first networking event or your 50th, here are some tricks that can help make the experience more manageable and, perhaps, even a bit more fun.
Be a good listener
You can learn something from just about everyone, and The Balance suggested that you go back to basics and start listening to people. Their experiences may teach you something about where you are in your career. On the other hand, a new perspective can provide insight that may help you choose where to go next. And you never know: Some of the stories people tell could just be entirely amusing, which you can then recount to others.
Now, you have to engage people in conversation before they start talking. Some people do find it daunting to strike up a conversation. The Muse had some suggestions for how to break the ice at a networking event. On a basic level, you can just go up to someone and introduce yourself, asking an open-ended question so that the other person feels as if they can easily respond. If you're at an event where food and drinks are served, kick off your chat talking about the treats or the ambiance. This can help put people at ease. Want to take your networking up a notch? The source said you should go ahead and ask about current events or news. Just stay away from anything controversial. Helping people to open up can lead to valuable career insight, but don't leap into an intense conversation immediately - it might just seem weird.
Treat people kindly, not like contacts
If you are at an event where you may meet people who can advance your career, it can be tempting to jump right in and ask higher-ups or hiring managers for advice. Inc said that you can't head out to network only thinking of people's positions. You need to treat everyone you meet kindly and with consideration, even if you want to impress and work with the CEO of a company. If you act like yourself, the chance is higher that eventually this person may independently reach out to collaborate or offer up a role. And it will be due to the fact that you were friendly and normal, not desperate.
The best networking advice: Be yourself. You should always attend a gathering with the goal of making industry contacts, but not with the goal of achieving something. People are human beings and by virtue of treating them as such, listening and acting with humility, you may find that people extend the same respect to you - and you are able to advance your career organically.
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