One thing most business professional agree with– regardless of industry or position – is that “networking is mandatory.” Whether you are just starting out in your career, seeking to change jobs, or happy with where you are at the moment, building and maintaining a solid network is an activity you should consider a must do. And if you do it right, your network (at least the heart of it), travels with you throughout your career.
Get over your aversion to networking
If you’re an outgoing extrovert who has no problem with shooting the breeze with employers in, say, a more casual context, you can go ahead and skip this section.
For everyone else (i.e., introverts fidgeting in their seats right now), here’s a mindset shift that can help you:
Networking doesn’t have to be this daunting act that takes up all your mental bandwidth and be this strategic game we make it out to be. Whether you know it or not, you’re always connecting with others all the time; a text message that you send to an acquaintance, meeting with your friends for a fun time out on the town, or even a brief conversation at the coffee machine with one of your coworkers – all of those are different forms of networking.
Treat strangers like close friends. Don’t be afraid to joke around with them, and even throw in a little self-discrimination here and there; show them that you’re a down-to-earth kind of person. Needless to say, the extent to which you’re able to do either without facing public embarrassment (God forbid) depends on a whole lot on context. So, make discernments and always be aware of what’s going on. If you do that, you’ll be good to go pretty much the entire time.
Don’t make connections aimlessly
Connect with the right people. People you can see a potential long-term, and lasting relationship with. Ideally, you will want to start to learn how to enjoy the activities taken up by them. There’s a reason why so many business deals happen on golf courses in movies or TV show, it happens in real life too.
The point is you want to be within close proximity with the correct people and share with them the things they enjoy. Don’t be afraid to make changes in your life if you know your chances are high. Sometimes people move close to where they want to get a job, before they even get the job.
Connect with different networking groups
Explore! You may find that some groups are easier to mingle with then others, and that’s perfectly normal. You’re not meant to be best buds with everyone. Your aim is to find people you can click with, and then proceed to find a way to click with them.
Once you pass this point, finding a job through a referral will be as easy as asking a friend.
Be a person people want to connect with
Become a magnet! Networking isn’t just about initiating connections with people. Honestly, if you were to avoid the above instructions and just double down on increasing your value, your chances are getting a job, or a referral are going to be orders of magnitude higher. It’s really that simple.
This however doesn’t mean it will be easy. Turning your life around and jazzing things up doesn’t just happen overnight. It required a lot of work. It’s the small things you do I.e. habits which add up every day that changes you as a person and makes you a higher value individual.
So, make your life more interesting. Take up new hobbies. Pick up old hobbies. Take a hike and explore the uncharted parts of the city, or even country, if you’re feeling adventurous. Meet new people. You never know if the person you meet could be a new friend. Cut down on binge watch and pick up a book instead. Hit the gym. Enrich yourself with wisdom.
It’s a marathon, not a race
Don’t rush the process. Don’t expect immediate change. Making big changes in your life takes time and effort, never mind making them stick and staying on the right track. Needless to say, this is not to dissuade you from having high ambitions in life, but to keep your expectations in reality. That way, you’ll go in with a lower chance of feeling disappointed or wanting to give up because you had a realistic timeframe for what you may achieve in a particular amount of time.
“Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.”- Bill Gates