Taking the "Work" Out of Networking
"Working" is a key part of networking, but many professionals view it as a chore they must perform to get ahead. Instead of treating networking as a necessary evil, it's more productive to approach it as a building process that takes time, thought and patience. Here are some suggestions on how to network without putting too much pressure on yourself and your professional status.
Keep it Natural
Networking shouldn't feel like a chore to be crossed off your list. If you are focusing on activities that you have a genuine interest in and finding people who are passionate about the same things you are, networking will energize you. Joining professional organizations or ones that focus on recreation and leisure is a good way to meet people. However, joining groups where your intention to meet people eclipses your authentic interest in the activity rarely works out. Instead of making it forced, keep your networking natural. The attitude of "You schmooze, you win" may work at some events, but don't think of what you are doing as schmoozing. You are sharing an interest with people and cultivating relationships without being pushy or inauthentic. When you are networking with people in groups, be yourself and stick to subjects you know well — relationships will follow.
Be a Resource
All of your strategies will be in vain if you have only your own interests in mind. Networking is a two way street and you should always be mindful of how you can help others in return. One good networking rule of thumb is to never start a conversation about yourself. Begin by listening to others talk about their professional situations and offer insights when it seems appropriate. Word of mouth travels fast and if you are able to help people, others will seek you out as a resource.
Enjoy the Fruits of Your Work
Networking is about building relationships, not finding jobs. However, once you have those relationships in place, be sure to let people know when your career situation is about to change. Describe your current situation by focusing on the positive. Tell others you are looking forward to new opportunities and challenges and they may be able to help.