When you start out with your career, one of the first things people will say to you is that you need to network. Apparently there is this magical power networking has – its supposed to open more doors for you when it comes to promotions or hearing about company news, staying informed about strategic decisions or even as far as helping you to get new jobs . This magic is yet to be fully proven to me, but I have to say I have never seen networking hurt anyone. Unless its the only thing you do all day long, then you should definitely get back to work and be known for working not NETworking.
Yet – how do you begin with networking? Let me tell you something that would be more like nOt-working: Just walking up to a person, introducing yourself and asking them out for coffee. That’s just a little too intense. Its good to be determined to do whats good for your career but there is a good way to do it and a not so suitable way. Anytime you worry about doing something – imagine someone else doing it to you and then think how you may react. Fun fact, most of the time humans react the same. Society has taught us what is acceptable and what not. Wearing a bikini to work – not. Wearing a bikini to the beach – is. There is no law or sign, no one had to tell you not to wear a bikini on your first day – just by being a part of society you pick up on these ques.
My key tip with networking: Give it time. Don’t focus on it in your first week or your second week. Heck if you are an introvert – give it a month or two. Show that you are there to do a job. Understand the office dynamics and your surroundings. Say hi to people. Get to know their names. Most importantly, remember their names. Networking can wait till you get the working part sorted out.
Once you have people’s names down – I would suggest starting with talking about what they do. Some people are private. Being private is ok – some people don’t want to talk about their private lives at work and that is fully ok. They are not trying to hide something from you or are trying to push you away. Respect their space. You will notice sooner or later who is more private than others. If they mention their weekend, or their family – they tend to be more open. And you can ask them the next time you bump into each other about their family or talk about yours. If they don’t – then don’t ask. That is invading their space. The best way to not make people feel uncomfortable is the first rule of networking: Start with work. Or a common interest you have. Not just – You seem nice, lets grab coffee. In times of #metoo, this can come off a little strong. Start with work.
What you can see from here is that a lot of listening is needed when networking. Remembering people’s names, pay attention to what they say and what they do. Following up with a question with all these three (that would be the jackpot – if just two elements, you are also good, ok even just one is fine). An example would be: “Say Jack, you mentioned last week you were working on project Blue – do you think we could grab a coffee? I would be interesting in hearing what else is going on in the company” or “Minnie! How are you? Where you able to submit that report on time? Finance is tough – wanna grab coffee and tell me how to handle them if I ever cross their path?”. These are easy openers, after 5-10min you will notice the real interesting people will get away from talking about their jobs. Those who don’t – please don’t meet them again. Life is too short to spend it with people who only talk about work.
People love talking about themselves. Therefore, don’t be scared to ask someone out for coffee. Give it time till you feel comfortable – don’t force it on yourself. And don’t feel hurt if someone says no. Remember, in a professional setting – the relationship is professional not personal. So don’t take it personal. And remember, you are worth networking with. You have a value as a human being – hence you are just worthwhile networking with. Don’t feel guilty for taking up anyone’s time. We all have something to offer – who knows someday you might be in a senior position and people would be happy to know you. Embrace asking people out for coffee. Go on. I dare you to do it tomorrow.