If you don’t feel like a natural networker, these tips may help.
Some people are natural conversationalists. You’ve seen them: they’re the ones who navigate their way around a networking event with such finesse that ‘working a room’ seems a virtual birthright. The conventional wisdom tells us that personal connections are vital to occupational success, particularly when we are on a job search – and effective communicators put that advice to good use. Think these chatterboxes were always able to turn on the charm? Think again; maybe they’ve just had more practice transforming strangers into clients, associates, and even friends.
Rather than drafting and dodging when a networking event shows up in town, you too can be one of those people that engage others, establishes solid connections, and gets your career humming. If you’ve ever felt passed over by the schmooze fairy, these networking tips will help you draw others to your newly charismatic self:
1. Keep an eye out for occasions to connect.
2. Volunteer. Rather than just attend, get involved.
3. Arrive early. Greeting others as they arrive will make you feel like you belong.
4. Be present. Give people the gift of your attention, and many will respond in kind.
5. Perk up! Act eager to be there and others will be drawn to your energy.
6. The eyes have it. Eye contact tells multitudes about our confidence. Even if you don’t feel it, ‘acting as if’ you are self-assured will help turn it into a reality.
7. Observe body language (a). When someone looks approachable, step forward, extend your hand, and introduce yourself. Don’t forget to smile!
8. Observe body language (b). Be mindful of forcing your way into others’ conversations.
9. Light up the room! A natural smile involves the eyes, not just the mouth.
10. Ditch the cell phone. You’re there to meet people in person, remember?
11. Stop texting. A knack for yakking won’t develop by looking down at your phone.
12. Be interested. Select someone who looks pleasant and friendly and ask a question or two. (“Looks like a great lineup of speakers! What topic brings you to today’s event?”)
13. Listen. This one is harder than it sounds, but will help bridge better conversations.
14. KISS. Not literally, but, Keep It Simple, Stanley. Yes, weather chat may be formulaic, but it works to break the ice.
15. Strike a balance between idle chatter and meaningful exchange. Talk about what’s going on around you (food, décor, venue, speakers). Practice makes perfect.
16. Be informed. Sports, news, film, etc. can be ‘small talk’ starters, but steer clear of politics.
17. Keep it light. No need to tell jokes, but an upbeat demeanor attracts ‘em like honey.
18. Build rapport. Engage in icebreaker activities, some of which may include Speed Networking, Career Pictionary, People Bingo, Strangers-No-More (like MadLibs), Fact or Fiction.
19. Business card exchanges can be discussion-starters. Show interest in what other people do.
20. Forget about yourself. The best conversationalists are not the silver-tongued charmers you may think that they are. Even if our culture demands constant self-promotion, the most charismatic people take the focus off of themselves when job networking.
Since the main mode of communication for many involves a constant stream of texting, tweeting, blogging and emailing, being hyper-connected online doesn’t automatically mean that we’re great with person-to-person interaction. So, if you really want to link in with other people, jump into the world of in-person job networking to form connections that will be there throughout your career. You may not think you’ve got that innate gift of gab, but with a bit of practice, some positive self-talk, and applying a few of these ideas, you’ll be shooting the breeze with ease in no time – and that will translate into solid partnerships down the road.
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Photo credit: Dell Inc./Flickr