Networking is hard for many individuals because it can sometimes feel fake or like it’s necessary to try really hard to even get noticed. The great part of networking is that you have the power and control to shape the experience into something you’re comfortable with. In fact, the best networking is often when it feels like a simple conversation – that natural, interesting, and constant flow really puts people at ease and makes them want to continue talking to you. Definitely easier said than done, though. To achieve that seemingly effortless method of networking with employers, you don’t need to be the most outgoing to bubbly person in the room. You do, however, need to:
- Practice. Practice is the number one way that you will be able to more effortlessly talk to employers. Ask your friends, colleagues, or family members to help you have professional conversations. You don’t even have to say “could you help me practice networking?” because simply discussing career-related topics is enough. This won’t only make you a better networker but also put you at ease for future conversations, therefore increasing your confidence, and shining through in interviews, internships, and beyond. Not sure how to have those professionally-geared talks? You’re in luck, here’s a blog on career conversations to have with colleagues and friends and another one for business dinner topics.
- Go In With A Plan, Not A Script. To ensure everything goes smoothly, you have to make sure you have a plan. By trying to achieve nervous-less and more casual talks with employers, you run the risk of getting too comfortable or, even worse, oversharing. You need to make sure you have a list of appropriate, relevant topics in your head while you have these discussions. At the same time, don’t try to memorize possible responses, because there’s no telling what scenarios will play out or what topics the conversation will lead to. It’s not worth your brain power or the risk of seeming far too rehearsed.
- Make sure NOT to overcompensate. If you’re on the shy side, do not try to seem more bubbly or talkative. Not only will most people see through it (you won’t be comfortable carrying that through a long or even multiple long conversations), most employers actually also very much enjoy talking themselves. Do not take away their time to discuss what they want to and spend time listening. It’s easy to get nervous and start uncontrollably talking, and while silence will definitely be filled, it will seem like you are taking over the conversation, which is more suitable for an interview. Add to the conversation when you have something valuable and relevant, not when you feel awkward, and the conversation will start to feel more natural.
- Try to smile, nod, and react in small, comforting ways. Making people feel comfortable and important is ideal. If it’s a socially-distanced, in-person event and your mask is covering your face, make sure to nod or ask relevant questions when someone is talking. If you’re on Zoom, make sure to smile every once in a while and make the people who have also taken time out of their day to meet you feel appreciated, because everybody likes that.
Being a more natural networker takes work, that’s no lie, but it is truly something that you can practice anytime. Even really outgoing individuals struggle with being truly effective, natural networkers, so this is something almost everybody can find useful as they approach their internships and careers. If you want even more tips that aren’t listed here, you might find this article helpful!