Networking is a challenge across the board. Basic networking skills are often a challenge for business professionals from underrepresented groups, which usually feel like they do not belong or not fit in the crowd. Today, I want to provide you with seven pro tips to help you network with confidence.
#1 Be authentic
People crave authenticity. In a world where everyone puts on a facade, nothing is more refreshing than someone genuine.
Authentic communication builds true business relationships. No one likes an embellisher or an exaggerator. So, when interacting with others at a networking event or online, just be yourself. Let your personality shine naturally.
#2 Practice speaking
This is a small but handy tip. If you dread presentations (and who doesn't?) or you get nervous when meeting someone new, try standing in front of a mirror and introducing yourself to, well, yourself!
And if you need to present to a crowd, give your presentation to your spouse or a close friend. It might seem silly, but like any skill, the more you do something the better you get at it. The best way to overcome those speaking jitters is to speak more.
#3 Learn how to listen
Perhaps counterintuitively, you also want to learn to listen more and talk less. Let me explain.
Yes, intentionally growing your network will involve talking. But communication is a two-sided street. Remember my point a few moments ago about authenticity? If your interactions with others are all one-sided, it can actually make you seem inauthentic.
It's important to hear what the other person is saying, internalize it, and respond accordingly. Networking like a pro means that you've invested in the other person as much as you want them to be invested in you.
#4 Set some goals
Let's shift gears for a moment and continue talking about intentionality. Everything I've said today has focused on how to network. But, do you know why you're even networking in the first place?
That's why you need to set some goals and then network in a way that accomplishes those objectives. For example, do you want to be recognized as an industry thought leader, or are you hoping to change jobs? Are you looking for sales leads or are you recruiting your next team member?
You need to understand what you're aiming to accomplish first, and then work towards that as you build your network.
#5 Be social
Social media is a great networking tool if you use it properly. As an example, one of the biggest questions we face in today's digital networking arena is how to build connections on LinkedIn.
Some take the approach that they'll only connect with people they've interacted with previously. I believe this is a fallacy. Networking offline builds relationships and connections with people you may or may not ever do business with. Do you remember my comment about setting goals just now? Can you accomplish them if you only have a dozen LinkedIn connections? Probably not. Connect with those who can help build your authority so that when you interact on LinkedIn, you have an audience who can engage with you.
Twitter is another excellent resource for networking. Companies will host "Twitter chats", high-speed question and answer sessions usually moderated by an industry expert. These are fantastic opportunities to let others know who you are, what you know, and how you can help them.
Even platforms like Facebook can be used for networking. You can find a Facebook group for just about any type of community. Look for ones that are in your industry, community help you build connections. The same is true with Reddit, as you can find a "sub" for just about any industry or profession.
#6 Networking from home
Telecommuting is going to continue to be a part of our society for quite some time. We all need to be prepared to network while from a home office.
First, think about phone calls. Did you know that people can "hear" a smile in your voice? If you smile while talking with someone on the phone, it just changes something in your tone of voice — making you feel more approachable.
Next, when interacting with others via Zoom, it's a good idea to have a dedicated workspace optimized for video chat. It lets the other person know you're serious about advancing your career even if you're not in a traditional office environment.
#7 Admit and (if possible) quantify your value
This may be the hardest tip of all but is also the most important. Typically, we don't like to talk about ourselves.
So many professionals from underrepresented groups, undersell their skills, accomplishments, and undervalue what they offer.
Take a few moments and analyze your productivity in your current role. Can you even assign a dollar amount to your accomplishments, such as "I saved the company $75,000 last year in operational improvements" or "I added 12 new accounts to our portfolio last quarter?"
When networking, you may be asked about what you've done. If you have these written down somewhere, it can give you valuable talking points that you use strategically towards your networking goals.
Networking like a pro
Today, my goal with these 7 tips was to help break down what can seem like an overwhelming task — career networking. If you proactively employ this knowledge, it will go a long way towards helping you accomplish your career goals.
Another great way to expand your career is hiring a certified professional coach like myself who can help you clarify your goals, and strategize on your next level career move. My mission at Prime You Coaching is to equip mid to senior-level professionals from underrepresented groups with the mindset and skills to achieve that next-level role.
Through my coaching program Elevate, and Own, Your Voice. We will work from the inside out to facilitate your transition to an executive position in a way that is authentic and powerful to you. And you'll leave with an actionable, game plan to get to that level up in your career.
If you are ready to elevate and own your leadership voice, you can apply here.