If you already know that having a professional network is essential, but don’t quite know how networking strategies help you get a great job, then this is the post for you.
The truth is that building a professional network can open the door to plenty of new career opportunities that might not otherwise have existed. Many companies open positions internally before looking at the outside workforce. When they do this, they ask their existing staff for recommendations – and this is where having an amazing network will come in handy.
Aside from the obvious benefits of a network, having well-developed relationships with titans in your industry can help you build confidence – something that’s super important as you learn to transition to the civilian workforce. Networking allows you the chance to learn to speak like a civilian again and improve your overall communication skills. You’re also going to get the opportunity to learn new things and market yourself.
That’s the good side of networking. The awkward side of networking included forced icebreaker activities, weird handshakes, and uncomfortable small talk. So how do you get the benefits without the weirdness? There are ways you can learn to work a room and become a natural networker.
Maintain a positive attitude. This sounds basic, but it’s hard when you’re at a networking event, and it feels like everyone else belongs except for you. The people who are the most successful at networking events are the ones who have a positive attitude that shows. That makes others want to connect with them. So that means smiling, actively listening, and developing real connections.
Active listening is one of the most important soft skills you can have as a job seeker. When you actively listen, the speaker feels heard and acknowledge and can help you engage more with the people at the event. In turn, this leads to developing real connections.
There’s nothing wrong with attending events with a goal in mind. But you can just as easily reach your goal and have fun at the same time. It’s not supposed to feel like work; it’s supposed to feel like the first day with a bunch of potential new friends. When you’re too focused on your goal, you can add unnecessary pressure and come across as disingenuous.
Being genuine also means building connections with people rooted in authenticity. Taking time to establish trust with people you meet at a networking event will help build your credibility. Even better, it will help you stand out from everyone else at the event. In addition to being an active listener, being positive, and engaging, ask questions.
Find something with each person you have in common and make the connection from there. A great way to prepare for this is to find a few anecdotes before the event. That way, you have a simple conversation starter with everyone you meet. For example, if you’re attending an event in a city that has robust sports team, check those scores and games before the event. Chances are, most people will want to chat a bit about the game.
Being authentic in your conversation means you’re less likely to be forgotten. Remember to have fun! Networking is all about practicing conversation skills, being a good steward in your professional community, and learning more about yourself along the way.