Professional Development Tips: Networking

Networking… Let’s face it, for many, the term triggers sweaty palms, uneasiness, and nervous butterflies. Networking requires even the most extroverted people to get out of their comfort zone and SELL themselves – something most people are uncomfortable doing. Networking usually involves conversing with people you don’t know with the added pressure of landing the job of your dreams. Networking is so intimidating, right? Wrong. It doesn’t have to be that way!

In today’s landscape, networking is necessary for growth and development, especially as a young professional. The ability to utilize connections can pave the way for new opportunities along your professional and personal journeys. Yes, networking forces you to be bold and outgoing when it comes to speaking with powerful people. Because of this though, you get the chance to share your story or learn something new and  develop a strong peer or mentor relationship. I may just be getting started in the professional world, but here are four tips I’ve learned along the way that will help you make great connections:

Be Genuine

Being authentic can be challenging, especially when you’re meeting someone new. Despite not knowing one another, don’t put too much pressure on the situation and let the conversation flow naturally. Be true to yourself and try to enjoy your discussion. If you can tell the connection isn’t a fit, that’s not something to be discouraged by, you’ve put yourself out there and are making progress in developing your network!

Add Value in Conversation

Everyone tells you not to talk too much when networking and there is some truth to that. When you are doing the majority of the talking, it can be easy to derail into a tangent and lose the other person’s interest. However, when it’s appropriate, explaining yourself in a way that adds value to the conversation and has a purpose will capture someone’s attention.

Eye Contact 

Making eye contact is the ultimate sign of respect. Looking someone in the eye shows that you are giving your full attention to what that person is saying and validating that their point of view is worthwhile and valuable to you.

Identify Commonalities

Think about how your beliefs and interests align with the people you meet. Listen intently to what they say and, when the timing is right, insert yourself into the conversation. Recall what has been said, and tie in how your personality matches and affirms those beliefs. Finding common ground shows compassion and empathy, which are traits that others gravitate towards.

As overwhelming as networking can be, it’s one of the most important activities you’ll do throughout your professional career. You’ll be networking for the rest of your life – Connecting with work colleagues, developing mentor relationships and maybe even becoming a mentor yourself. Networking plays a large part in establishing yourself in the professional world.

As I reflect upon the transformation in my networking approach, I am incredibly thankful for organizations like Orr Fellowship for giving me the confidence to put myself out there and connect with others. Through Orr Fellowship, I’ve been given the opportunity to have insightful conversations not only with other fellows, but with prominent professionals in the Indianapolis community. These people are an inspiration to me and have had a huge impact on my personal and professional development. I will continue utilizing and enhancing my own networking skills as I work towards becoming more like them. There are countless organizations and communities that foster similar opportunities for growth and development. Find your fit and begin sharpening your networking skills today. 

As you embark on your own networking journey, take the time to contemplate the interactions you’ve had with others and add your findings to this list!