Networking: The Art of Self-Promotion
When the subject of networking and self-promoting is raised, many envision professionals doling out business cards and endlessly attending business functions. But in its purest sense, networking isn’t about landing a job. It’s about nurturing relationships that could be beneficial to you in the future and promoting yourself in both a personal and professional sense. One of the best ways to do this without seeming forced and coming off as desperate is to focus on your passions. These could be related to your field, a current event, or a personal cause. When you approach people on the basis of what you’re passionate about, it will make networking more natural and enable you to communicate with confidence and sincerity.
Learn From The Best
We all know people who have a gift for working a room at social events and make networking look effortless. They can be valuable commodities for those trying to navigate their way. Use them as role models and study their techniques and how they interact with people. Notice the amount of time they spend paying attention to others and listening to what they have to say. Eventually, you can get to know these role models and ask them to mentor you. If you are lucky you may be able to share some of their network.
Set Yourself Apart
You are special and if you don’t recognize this you will have a hard time convincing others of it. Determine what sets you apart from other professionals in your field. Maybe it’s your positive attitude or ability to overcome career setbacks that makes you stand out. Although you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help, never lose sight of the fact that networking is the mutual sharing of information. Common courtesy is essential and the last thing you want to do is have a one-sided conversation that makes you appear desperate or parasitic. It’s always good to prepare and know as much as you can about others before you approach them. Start off by showing interest in them and their passions, and always remember that the best way to make a friend is to be one.
Keep In Touch
Many professionals are proactive about networking, but when it comes to following up they lose their follow-through. Timing is a big issue in landing a position, and it’s a good idea to periodically remind people about you. Another good reason to keep in touch is that you may be able to get additional names of people to contact from your original source. Thank-you notes or e-mails should be sent immediately after you meet someone who you think could be helpful to your career cause. Communicate that you enjoyed meeting and talking to them.
The Quick Pitch
Develop a concise “30-second infomercial” about yourself when you are networking. This quick pitch promotes you without being overbearing. It should describe your specific accomplishments in an interesting and intriguing way. After you have perfected your story, you can lengthen or alter it slightly to fit different situations. Practice it and always be prepared to deliver it whether you are attending a business function or sitting next to someone on a plane. Once you have your pitch in place, here are some other networking strategies you can incorporate:
- Start your networking efforts with people whom you are most comfortable with (relatives, friends)
- Join groups and organizations
- Connect to your passions
- Set specific networking goals and be disciplined about achieving them
- Recognize and tackle the aspects of networking that bother you the most