- Wise Words -
by taylor trovillion
Working in Public Relations means interacting daily with a lot of people outside of my company (clients, potential clients, journalists, and more). Networking is an important part of my job. It wasn’t through luck that I became good at networking; I worked at it and used five hacks to help me make it a habit that is now second nature (on most days!).
Find Something that Matters
To get moving on networking, I started out with organizations that I am interested in or attached to: The Junior League, Marquette Alumni Club of Chicago, and Public Relations Society of America.
I find that networking at organizations I have a real interest in reduces the level of stress (I know, at first networking can be stressful!). I am there not only to meet people, but to support an organization that is important to me. For instance, at a Pi Beta Phi event (I am an alum), I met a young woman looking for a job and I connected her to someone in my network to help meet her goals. It was at a Marquette Alumni Club that I met a reporter I now work with and this helps me be more effective for my clients.
The bottom line: Engage with organizations where you have a tie. Using organizations that are comfortable to you for networking and relationship-building will help it become a “normal” activity.
As we young professionals are, well, young, we can be viewed as a “child” (in the nicest possible way) by one colleague and the former babysitter of another. It’s necessary to work with those of all ages and a perk of networking is that you can meet diverse groups of people.
For instance, I count older Marquette alumni as a great source of new business opportunities, and some of them have turned to me to help understand my generation’s skill set and outlook. Oh, have I learned from the next group to join the workplace: Snapchat was not on my radar when I graduated a little over four years ago!
Taking it one step further, meeting younger and older people makes you stronger for your clients and customers. After all, not every campaign you work on is targeted to a 26-year old, and understanding that there are differences is imperative as you develop campaigns or interact with client stakeholders. Learning how others prefer to communicate (Email or text? Hugs or handshakes?) has made me more accomplished and skilled at working across all age groups.
The bottom line: You never know who you are going to meet, and don’t underestimate how someone can help you regardless of their age.
Stay in Your Comfort Zone
Do you have a lucky penny? A lucky tie? Some sort of special breakfast you eat the day of a presentation?
Don’t abandon these things on days you might meet someone new or attend a networking event. Throughout my networking career, I have met individuals who take themselves out of their usual routines because of a special event and there’s really no need to do so.
Don’t drink a Red Bull if you don’t drink it regularly – you’ll seem jumpy. Don’t go buy a full suit if you don’t need it, and think about the outfits you shine in – that people compliment you on regularly.
Starting off a conversation with a compliment, among a roomful of strangers is not a bad thing either, but only if it comes naturally to you!
The bottom line: Be yourself! And if you aren’t at the pinnacle of your networking career, try the hacks in this article to become more comfortable networking.
Leave the Business Cards at Home
This may seem unconventional but there’s a rationale to it. When there’s a lack of a card exchange you are forced to remember someone’s name, traits and background.
For those you remember you’ll find them on LinkedIn. Give them a call or seek out their email address and send them a note. To me, that’s a real connection and the purpose of networking – building relationships you want to partake in.
If someone gives you a card, feel free to add them on LinkedIn. They’ll find you if they, too, want to build the connection.
The bottom line: If someone makes an impression, you’ll remember them.
Your Friends Are Your Network Too
While LinkedIn may seem like THE networking tool, it doesn’t always yield “real” connections. In the “real world” you have connections and I encourage you to make use of them.
Try asking a friend about their job, their clients and their service work. Your friends also know you better than anyone else and can give great career advice, serve as a sounding board, or provide you a new business lead – we’re all growing together after all. My colleague Shelby Pritchett wrote a Wise Words column that discussed “peer mentorship” too.
The bottom line: Don’t limit your networking to people you don’t already know. Your friends are part of your network so use them!
That’s it from me… hope you find these 5 tips helpful!
For more Wise Words on Networking see: Bar. Table. Chat. Networking Simplified and Networking as a Relationship.