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Networking. Just seeing the word is enough to make your palms sweaty and your mouth dry. When someone brings up the idea, you begin looking for a way to escape. But networking is essential to advancing in your career.
Despite widespread hesitation toward networking, the benefit isn’t completely lost on professionals. In fact, 80 percent of the 15,905 employees surveyed in the 2017 LinkedIn Networking Your Way Into Your Next Job Opportunity report said they consider networking important to career success--and 70 percent said they actually got hired at a company where they’d made a personal connection.
When you don’t enjoy or aren’t great at networking, it can seem daunting and scary, but the reality is it can be as simple as chatting with an acquaintance. The trick to networking is to make it part of your daily routine.
Here’s how to take the stress out of networking and make it work for you:
Give and take and grow
Networking is a conversation. You don’t have to--and shouldn’t--be always asking for things (jobs, favors, connections). The groundwork for networking is really sharing ideas and stories. Direct benefits (job leads) can come later.
Recognizing the real human connection and removing the awkward element of using networking to your own end removes a great deal of the pressure from reaching out. Rather than asking for a recommendation, offer to give one. These gestures will come back around many times over as you grow your network.
Keep in touch with your connections regularly, even if it’s just to say ‘hello’ or wish a Happy New Year. Be aware of their growing networks and career advancements as well. Congratulate them on a promotion and you open the door to ask about their company’s advancement opportunities or job openings.
Blend the trends
While social media is one tool in your networking arsenal, it shouldn’t be the only way you interact with your network connections. Researchers have found that dependence on social media can actually make you less social.
In fact, people who use only social media to interact are three times more likely to feel isolated, according to the 2017 report, Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.
This means while you might start networking on Facebook or Twitter, you should make plans to meet connections in person, as well. Today’s networking is more personal and one-to-one, both on- and offline. Social networking platforms can be useful tools for not only making those connections, but also growing your network through in-person events.
Do your research before you meet up with a networking connection. Find out more about the location. Who spends time there? For example, is it a coffee shop frequented by employees of a company you’ve had your eye?
If it’s a community event your company sponsors, will competitors be there? What about industry leaders and influencers? Determine who else you might like to meet from the guest list.
Be sure to ‘check in’ when you get to an event. This way, professionals with connections to the venue or event who also check in will be able to see you’re there. You never know who might be looking to connect with you.
Plan for fun
We all have those items on our task list that never seem to get done. They roll over to the next week because--for whatever reason--we simply dread doing them. For many people, networking is a rollover item.
This is even more likely to be the case if you’re not inclined to making personal connections in the workplace. If you associate networking with the stress of socializing, you’re bound to become overwhelmed. And you’re not alone. In fact, more than 74 percent of the 17,000 employees surveyed in the 2017 Mental Health America Mind the Workplace study said they actually feel pressured into workplace involvement, such as social activities or volunteer programs. For many (63 percent), the pressure is so strong that they’d rather work alone than have to deal with the stress of interacting with co-workers.
Get acquainted with the art of networking by easing into it. Rather than a big event or three-day conference, start with breakfast/coffee sessions. Join volunteer events where you’ll meet like-minded professionals.
Casual networking meetings (such as those scheduled through Meetup) allow you to make connections in a more relaxed setting. In fact, finding events that actually interest you will make networking enjoyable, rather than some ominous and uncomfortable requirement.
While you’re ultimate goal is to connect with professionals in the industry and advance your career, networking does not have to be rigid. Look for similar interests you have with your connections and plan a fun excursion instead.
When you change your approach to networking, you remove the fear and reservations of the past. Networking becomes something you actually enjoy. You see the career advancement benefit, and how it helps you learn and grow, both personally and professionally
Karyn Mullins is the President at MedReps, a job board which gives members access to the most sought after medical sales jobs and pharmaceutical sales jobs on the Web. Connect with Karyn on Facebook,Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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