The most connected people are often the most successful. Networking can lead to new opportunities, supplies an avenue to exchange ideas, helps you develop and improve your skillset, stay on top of the industry, gain access to additional resources, meet prospective mentors/partners/clients, and more.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Pi Sigma Epsilon's National Convention. For those who may not know, Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE) is a national co-ed professional fraternity in the fields of sales, marketing, and management. Its mission is to develop the skills of its members through lifelong opportunities. Carew is a proud partner of PSE, and I was thrilled to attend the conference as a sponsor, supporter, competition judge, and networker.
It was refreshing to walk into a networking room and not be the lone extrovert. Surrounding me were hundreds of eager young networking machines (college students), fraternity alumni, educators, and fellow PSE sponsors. It was great! I specifically enjoyed seeing how professional each of the students was and how well they could steer their conversations.
This experience gave me an instant flashback to my early days networking within my first role out of college. Unfortunately, I was not part of an organization like PSE that honed my soft and hard skills and provided me with practical business/networking experience. Instead, my networking skills came from years of trial and error, learning what worked well and what, simply put, was bad.
Since returning from the PSE National Convention, I have had networking and its importance on the brain. I thought it would be a good time to share three networking tips for building meaningful connections.
- Two Ears, One Mouth: Listen Twice as Much as You Talk. Most people like to talk about their favorite subject: themselves. It’s easy to own a conversation with constant talk about your stuff, your background, and your interests. Instead, let the other person (or people) do the talking. Ask engaging questions that break the ice and get others to open themselves up. Let people speak their hearts out as it usually spawns multiple questions on their end.
- No. 1 Topic to Avoid? The Weather! Weather is a universal networking conversational crutch. In my experience, when someone speaks about the weather, they are lazy around the conversation and do not want to exert any effort. They don't want to connect with me, have no goal for the conversation or networking event, or need an out. Further, they are not inspired enough by me to spark a meaningful conversation about anything significant. So, challenge yourself to find commonalities with those you are speaking to, embrace appropriate silences, and keep the conversation positive. Ask someone about a topic they are familiar with that you know nothing about. A good conversation will come.
- Continue the Conversation. Believe it or not, there is life after the happy hour or networking event, which is why it's important to utilize tools such as LinkedIn to continue your social conversation. You are not going to want to stay connected with every person you talk to, and that's a good thing. But I make it a habit to try and, at minimum, connect with those I hit it off with or those with whom I had an enjoyable conversation. Technology has made it too easy to continue the conversation after initially meeting someone. Even if you can't buy/sell your products/services, doesn't mean you shouldn't keep in touch. The world is small, and life changes faster than we think, so it’s always nice to stay connected with folks you have met throughout your professional career.
Networking is important in your job and for your personal and professional growth. Use these tips to unlock opportunities you may not even know to exist - networking is an unparalleled skill for people young and old.