It's an often-stressful reality that many of us face: the fact that we live in a world where everyone is constantly trying to outdo each other. It requires consistent effort and unrelenting drive to stay on top of trends, while at the same time keeping pace with your peers.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage this pressure and still succeed in your chosen career field. Networking is crucial for professional success and also one of the most intimidating facets for anyone who has social anxiety or feels uncomfortable around others. It can be challenging to pitch ideas and meet new people, which is why it’s important to learn how to network effectively as well as be prepared before you have an opportunity to make a good first impression. As someone who aims to stand out in a good way, here are 7 tips for professional networking
Be known for being a nice person.
It’s hard to stand out in a good way when you come across as being unsociable or rude. It’s important to know how to be kind, which will make you more approachable and trustworthy. This one is pretty straightforward.
Give value long before you ever get it.
One of the best ways to stand out in a good way is to be helpful and give value long before you ever expect it. To do this, you have to spend time understanding what your audience likes.
When pitching an idea or meeting new people, make sure to always start by telling them how they can benefit from your idea or product. This will immediately show that you’re not an opportunist and instead genuinely want to help others. It also helps establish that you are someone who understands the value of networking and that you know how to communicate your ideas effectively.
Let your work speak for itself.
Your work and reputation will speak for themselves. The best way to start a conversation is by talking about the other person, but when it's finally your turn, share only from your expertise or experience. Make sure to come with questions when you meet someone new so you can find common ground and build trust. This builds the relationship in a meaningful way and leaves people wanting to learn more about each other.
You don't have to prove anything to anyone, so don't let your ego get in the way.
Listen more than you speak.
It's a common misconception that people who are popular in their field speak more than they listen. However, the opposite is true. People who listen more than they speak build trust and rapport with others. Listening allows you to show interest in what others are saying and it also provides opportunities for you to ask questions that can help you get to know the people in your network better.
If you're at a networking event, be sure to take notes on the information people share with you so that you can follow up later. Network at events where your industry participates. There is no such thing as an exclusive networking event. Don't hesitate to network at events your industry participates in because there will be plenty of other professionals doing the same thing. It can feel awkward at first, but as long as you go into it well prepared, there's no reason why it can't be successful for someone like yourself.
Maintain eye contact.
Eye contact with your audience is a great way to make a first impression. When making eye contact as you speak, make sure to maintain it for the entire time that you are speaking with them. It’s also important to keep eye contact with other people in the room, which will help you feel more confident in your interactions.
Slow down on the business cards.
The more you try to talk about yourself, the more people will withdraw. Keep it short and sweet. Be genuine, humble, and authentic. Always be professional. But while I would suggest that you do keep a handful of business cards on your at all times, only use them as an absolute last step.
I've been in so many social situations that make me feel so strange when someone has walked up to me, handed me their business card, and walked away without even saying hello. Despite what they might've thought was happening, that is not networking and it is a value-only-for-them approach that won't get them anything other than a bad reputation.
Have I mentioned give value give value give value enough yet?
First and foremost, be yourself. If you’re someone who is constantly trying to act out of your comfort zone of your personality, it will take away from your professionalism and possibly your credibility. Networking is about building relationships, not impressing people. And although that may sound counter-intuitive, it’s true. So don’t overthink what you say or do around others — just be yourself, and let the conversations flow naturally.
YOU'VE GOT THIS!