How to network as your authentic self

How to network as your authentic self

Networking demands revamping. The word itself conjures insecurities, anxiety, and dread. What if we give networking a new title, something that isn’t just inviting, but better suits the concept. Link-building implies a collection of people working together to create meaning. Positive association meetings suggests a place where people unite for altruism. Mentor-exchange hints at two minds receiving guidance from one another. Renaming the term networking would remove fear laden tension affiliated with it.

Meeting new people can be tricky. You want to be genuine, friendly, and avoid coming off as though you’re marketing yourself. How to do that? There are several ways to better prepare for networking, aka building relationships, that don’t leave that icky, inauthentic feeling.

Foster connections that maintain a sense of authenticity while allowing you to flourish as a professional by following these tips.

  1. Have face-to-face interactions

    Meet with people in person:

    Join local professional and interest groups

    Join local activities where interests could be the platform for new friendships, conversations, and connections. Coed sports teams, lectures, art classes, and beginner’s language lessons offer space to get to know people without the added pressure of a professional environment.

    Attend alumni association events

    Alumni are gatekeepers to solid professional connections, but more than that, they are people with whom we can have an easy conversation based on common themes and experiences. Chatting with an alumnus is like conversing with an old friend from school. Great practice well worth the effort.

    Engage in small talk

    Public events breed small talk. Start a conversation about the event itself. Ask about the host/hostess. Make a comment about a clothing choice or beverage. Mix and mingle enough to break out of your shell. Small talk is a necessary ice-breaker, so if you don’t like small talk, rest assured that the sooner you get it over with, the sooner you can get to the heart of matters that matter to you most.

    Contact a professional for an inspirational chat

    Set up a meeting with someone you respect or admire. Inquire about how they got established in the field and achieved success. Picking the brain of someone who is already where you aim to be is priceless. Before you go, write a list of questions and ask someone to review them to ensure you’re not overstepping boundaries. Remember, flattery will get you everywhere.

  2. Join social media groups

    Get to know people online:

    Connect

    Join social media groups that cater to your area of professional and personal interests. Technology is a huge part of our lives, so take advantage.

    For LinkedIn, the process is easy: Click the Work icon (with 9 squares) in the very top right of your homepage, a “Visit more LinkedIn Products” message window appears, click on the blue Groups icon. All of the groups you are currently a member of will appear. Click on the “Requested” tab,  then click “Discover” at the bottom of the page to find groups you are interested in joining. You can then request membership by clicking the “Request to join” button under the group name.

    Social media groups for professionals, professionals seeking other professionals, or professional building abound, there is no shortage of social media spaces for development. Not sure where to go for such groups, ask coworkers if they are a part of social media link-ups or simply type career title and keywords, then let the internet do the work for you.

    Inquire

    Ask friends and coworkers to introduce you to people if they are already connected on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because there lies the real magic. People are here to help us. We are here to help each other. Relying on each other builds relationships, but it also ensures prosperity for the future. Being vulnerable enough to ask for help shows we’re human. The web designer or marketing expert you need for your next project might be the friend of your friend or the cousin of a coworker. But you will never know until you ask.

  3. Listen to and talk to other people in public places

    Listening to and talking with strangers in public places helps boost self-esteem. With each interaction, you naturally become less shy at networking events and in public. The purpose is twofold. One, you become less shy and more comfortable with small talk. Two, you become aware of surroundings and the possibilities of meeting new people. Tip: talk to people who have a more welcoming, warm demeanor, then use that to your advantage.

    Shops

    Talk to people in public, i.e. in a grocery store; you never know where a great connection to your next professional experience or opportunity lies. If nothing else, talking to stranger is a great way to break the ice and prepare you for the real thing.

    Entertainment spots

    Restaurants, bars, music venues, and theatres are perfect places to eavesdrop and people watch. Listen to conversations, then make connections. But be subtle about comments and always make sure you are respectful. The last thing you want to do is dominate a conversation that wasn’t yours to begin with. How to connect without sounding rude? Simply ask to join in while offering a genuine smile. Remember, the purpose of this is not to disrupt other people’s conversations, but rather to make authentic connections.

    Commutes

    If you use public transportation to commute, you are literally elbow to elbow with so many possibilities. At the very least, pay attention to what people are talking about to gauge who has a similar interest. Perhaps you might even find someone who works at the company of your dreams.

  4. Explore a new area in your city or town

    Don’t be shy to ask for directions or recommendations from people on the street or in public places, some of the best connections are made when we become vulnerable and admit we don’t know.

    The general rule of thumb when interacting with people is to be observant. If someone looks too busy to be bothered, then don’t stop them. Look for people who have smiles or an open body posture.

    Ask where locals go or what locals do. People love to be asked about their neighborhoods and give their recommendations.


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