This is all about that initial starting point of how you become friends or getting to know a coworker. I had my first day of my internship today. A day of orientation and welcoming. I made a few friends along the way and you never know, I’ll be glad that I did in the future when I need help in something and their contact may come in handy.

This is essence of networking. To build on relationships and build a web of people who you know and down the road, that connection will give you an advantage.

Here’s a few tips:

1. Every moment is an opportunity.

Think about waiting in line at the grocery store or doctor’s office, washing your hand in the bathroom, talking to the cashier when buying a slice of pizza, as long as you’re near someone. That can be an opportunity to network. Whether you take that opportunity is up to you. I suppose it also depends on a variety of factors, such as your mood, how much you want to get to know that other person, timing, appropriateness etc. Nonetheless, at any moment you’re in, see if you can utilize it to your fullest advantage.

2. Smile and simple kindness goes a long way.

As simple as smiling shows to the other person that you’re friendly, it gives others the impression that you don’t bite and you’re in a happy mood. It can provoke someone else to start networking with you or it can even make someone else’s day better. Simple acts of courtesy can be a good starting point too; pick up their key that someone dropped accidentally while walking, opening the door for the person behind you, helping an elderly with crossing the street and more. Those are interactions of opportunity that gives you the chance to talk and network.

3. What to talk about.

It’s all about starting the conversation, in thinking about what to say to the other person when you know nothing about them. Usually it’s common and natural to casually comment on the  something that’s easy to talk about; how it was difficult to find the elevator since it’s hidden in the back of the building, the loudness of the machinery outside the doctor’s office, how you like that person’s shoes, or any topic that you find interesting that you think the other person might be interested in. You’ll get a taste of that person’s personality or preference style, whether they speak the same language as you, how talkative they are and more. Generally, typical starters can be the weather, reason for heading to the destination that both of you are going to, mood, anything particular that happened to you that’s interesting… Avoid conversations that might not good directions to head towards, such as religion, marital status, age, political stance and other personal questions that might not be appropriate for the first few minutes during interaction.

4. Listening and talking, you have to do both.

Don’t forget that listening is just as important as talking. After hearing what they talked about, it’s necessary to respond to what they said. It’s not a one way street of you just talking non stop or starting a new topic after every time they finish saying something. Ask about if they’re from the area, where they went to college, high school, how they found out about the organization or job, you’ll be surprised how many common interests there are. Even if you are complete opposite with the other person, there might be someone you know who that person knows as well. After talking about random things, you’ll be exposed to more of who that person is like and vice versa. Depending on who you’re interacting with, you might be listening more or talking more, but remember that ideally, it’s a shared conversation where you are actively listening and talking. If the conversation is 100% you listening and not saying one word, you might not even be interested in that person because they talk so much or they might think you’re boring given that you have nothing to say. Other hand, if you’re talking the whole time and not even listening to the other person, the opposite effect might happen.

5. Follow up.

Maybe if you’re just friendly and wanted to practice talking, but if you truly want to network; you’ll need to find a way to stay in touch with the person in some form. What is a talking point during the conversation that you can use for follow ups? It’s great if you have business cards to give to the other person so they have your contact information or you get their number or email. Worst comes to worst, if you remember their name, you can try using social media to further grow that relationship. If there isn’t any form of contact after that interaction, then there’s a good chance you’ll never come across that person again somewhere else. Keep up with the contact you have established over the years. Maintaining that relationship is just as important as making it. It’ll be more and more difficult to keep up with getting in touch with everyone, but sooner or later you’ll find ways to keep in touch with those that are important. Try grabbing a lunch or coffee break to catch up, send an article or video that pertains to that person, a simple text to see how they’re doing, or a post card when you’re traveling.

Networking is a skill and it takes time to master and get better at it. Over time, you’ll get the hang of it and it becomes easier. You’ll know how important this is when you truly need it. Those with the strongest networks has the connections to get to where they want from where they are.

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