Networking is a fundamental skill for all businesspeople eager to advance their careers, but successfully making connections doesn't always come easily.
To get ahead in the cut-throat world of business, you need to be able to network discreetly and professionally. Many people struggle with pitching their networking attempts at the right level and are likely to either overwhelm and alienate potential contacts or fail to approach them at all.
You can separate these common challenges into two broad categories: those faced by introverts and those experienced by extroverts.
It's natural to think that networking comes easy to extroverts, who are infamous for their ability to speak to new people. However, the most common trap extroverts fall into is the assumption that their attention is always welcome.
A more subtle approach and the ability to spot when a potential contact is uncomfortable with the conversation are good tools for avoiding accidentally overstepping the mark. Extroverted individuals should always be ready to rein in their more bombastic personality traits and take their cues from the people with whom they are attempting to network with.
Introverts often find the whole concept of networking quite difficult, as it asks them to step outside their comfort zone. To deal with this necessary evil, it's important to recognise that networking doesn't have to be a chore.
Prior to a networking event, research the kind of people you are likely to meet and prepare a few suitable questions or topics of conversation – you can rely on these if you become stuck for words. If you find it challenging to talk to people in a public setting, simply introduce yourself briefly and be sure to follow up with an email or message on LinkedIn.
There are several aspects to networking that are relevant to all personality types. The most important include:
- Targeting the appropriate people – don't waste anyone's time.
- Being memorable – introduce a few concise, key facts about yourself.
- Leaving a positive impression of yourself – be polite and friendly.
- Knowing how to follow up – don't bombard contacts; keep emails light and chatty.
In an increasingly digitised business environment, it is equally important to learn how to network with people virtually. Whether you're making friends at virtual office events or composing emails to new colleagues, always remember that each person you come in contact with could be a potential networking connection.