You’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While what you know is important, learning how to network is invaluable when it comes to working in communications.
Though it can seem intimidating at first, networking is one of the easiest ways to meet new clients, find sales leads, connect with reporters, recruit employees and propel your career. Everyone knows something you don’t, and networking can help you find out what that is. Initially, it can seem like a lot of work, but these six tips can make networking feel effortless.
1. Be authentic: Networking shouldn’t feel forced. Remember everyone has a unique story to tell, including you. Sharing personal details about your life and your career experiences can help you find common ground with others. Never be afraid to bring who you are to the table.
2. Be “social”: Three-quarters of adults on the internet are on social media sites. If there are people who you’d like to meet at an event you’re attending, don’t be afraid to reach out through social media. I once attended a conference with a friend who tweeted a photo of himself holding a sign that read, “will work for chocolate,” to a major U.S. chocolate brand also at the conference. He caught the brand’s attention and was offered a social media internship with the company a few days later.
3. Listen: Ask quality questions and listen to the responses. Listening with the goal of learning something can help form lasting connections with people. And don’t be afraid to say, “Can you tell me more about that?” A lot of people are afraid of sounding dumb when admitting they don’t know something. But if it’s coming up in conversation, chances are, the person bringing it up is interested in it. Ask her about it! It’s a great conversation starter.
4. Think of others: Resist the urge to think of networking as a means to an end. Try to find ways you can help others, rather tallying the ways they can help you. Doing so will bring more meaning to the process as you help people develop their careers.
5. Read up on current events: One common fear of networking is not knowing what to say. Reading up on current events and pop culture trends can help you break the ice for new conversations. Yahoo! News Digest and The Skimm are helpful resources if you don’t have time to scour the news 24/7.
6. Follow up: Introducing yourself is only the first step and making a connection is only the second. For networking to be effective, you have to follow up. If you promised to do something (i.e. make an introduction, share a relevant article, etc.), do it. This will keep your relationships alive as you build your personal network.
Whether you’re a recent grad looking to get into PR or a seasoned industry professional, learning to network is important. Everyone has a story to tell and networking gives you the chance to learn more about the world and people around you.