Networking is a great way to build connections in and across industries, but it can be tricky. You might run into these obstacles while you’re networking, but have no fear — read on for recommendations on how to handle these situations with ease.
1.) FEELING TOO AWKWARD TO NETWORK
Practice with a friend or career counselor to build comfort with introducing yourself, talking about your career interests, and asking questions about the other person. Most people are excited to share details about their own career history and what they’ve learned in the industry, especially at networking events where their goal is to get to know other people. Doing your research and coming prepared with questions and your “elevator pitch” will help you feel confident in the moment and will also show that you respect the time of the people you’re meeting.
2.) STAYING SILENT IN CONVERSATION
Lulls in conversation are normal, but by preparing you can prevent silence. Create a list of open-ended questions and review it before the networking event. Have a few questions in the back of your mind that you can pull out when there’s a silence. Avoid yes or no questions as they can be a dead-end in the conversation.
3.) STAYING IN AN UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATION
If someone gives you a rude response, behaves inappropriately, or if you feel uncomfortable for any reason, thank the contact and leave the conversation. You don’t need to stay in conversations or situations that make you uncomfortable.
4.) WASTING TIME WITH UNHELPFUL INFORMATION
Sometimes, the person you’re talking to will go on and on with information. If it’s useful, let the person continue talking. If it’s not helpful, refocus the interview. After letting the person finish their point, you can say you don’t want to take too much of their time and then ask another question that you want them to answer.
5.) ASKING FOR A JOB
Networking is for developing relationships, not to find a job on the spot. Often you can find a job through your network, but only after you’ve developed and strengthened your relationships. Use your networking meetings to learn more about the person you’re talking to, gain information about careers, find more contacts, and seek advice.
If someone presents an opportunity to you while in the middle of networking or an informational interview, you have the option of being interviewed formally on the spot. In this case, it’s appropriate to ask questions about the job and what skills and experiences are relevant before answering interview qusetions. You are also free to ask if you can return to be interviewed later because you’d like more time to prepare.
6.) Failing to follow up
Keep your connections fresh and memorable by sending a note to check-in once in awhile. This can be a thank you note after meeting, an update on your progress based on advice you got from the connection, a relevant article about industry news or events, a congratulatory note after a major event in that person’s life, and so on.
7.) NOT KEEPING A RECORD
Keep a record of your calls, conversations, and meetings. A spreadsheet or journal may be helpful for tracking. This helps you stay organized with what you talked about with your connections and when you last spoke. You can also research industries, organizations, and positions before and after your networking meetings and keep track of these alongside your conversations.