4 truths every new networker needs to know

I remember walking into my first networking event – Ahhhhhhh! I remember wanting to stand against the wall and eat my free pre event snacks until the session started. Totally normal response by the way, after all these people in the room are actually out to get you and want you to leave (sarcasm).

So these are my top 4 truths about networking. Remember them next time you encounter a bout of omfg-strangers-are-scary anxiety.

Truth 1 – Striking up a conversation (or joining in) is easier than you think

It’s a networking event, 99% of people are there to talk to new people. Keep it simple, I find introducing yourself and saying “Hi I’m Cherish, nice to meet you” and asking a basic question such as “have you been to one of these events before” a good way to kick off the conversation. But what if you walk in and everyone is already in groups chatting away? Then what? Firstly if there is a snack station, go get yourself a drink, you always want to keep one hand free so you can shake hands and interact. Approach a smaller group (1-3 people) and introduce yourself. Admitting you don’t know anyone at the event is a cool ice breaker, we all know those feels and chances are the group chat you have joined.. well they met each other about 2 minutes ago as well.

There will always be the 1% of people who are just not very nice to socialise with. I’ve met them, the type of people who will give you one word answers and show very little interest in your kind attempts to get to know them. They are the exception not the rule. If you find a sunshine hater just excuse yourself and move on (more about that later).

Truth 2 – You do have something to offer 

If you have listening ears then you have something to offer. Networking is not actually about fanning people with business cards and moving on. It’s not about pitching your product, well at least not directly. It’s about getting to know people and that means a bit of active listening. Being in the moment and asking questions. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is constantly looking away from you, looking for god knows what. It just sucks.

Be there in the moment and treat that person well. You don’t have to have all the experience to be interesting to talk to, ask questions, be interested. Stop worrying about your story and focus on understanding the experience of someone else. Naturally you will end up sharing a bit about yourself, without the stress of needing to say or be something you are not. You don’t remember people because they are experienced, you remember them because they were interesting and fun to talk to. You do have something to offer, always.

Truth 3 – It’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation to talk to someone new

Sometimes you might spend an entire event talking to one person. But most of the time that’s not really what you are there for. It’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation to talk to someone new. This is BY FAR the hardest part of networking because you want to leave on a positive note. This article, this one and this one all have a number of strategies you can use. You will need to build some courage, particularly if you experience a bit of social anxiety. But it is okay to detach yourself and speak to other people, that’s what you are there for.

Truth 4 – It get’s easier

With every event you attend it will get easier. You may have the urge to drag someone along that you know to every event. If so have a game plan, otherwise you will end up standing in the corner talking about your weekend and internet memes instead of getting out there and experiencing all the fun of meeting new people.

Go on, you rock – get out there!


Image credit – click here | Quote credit: click here 

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Why are you sharing that with me? A LinkedIn story.

Nothing frustrates me more on that glorious social media hub, than when people share articles / blogs without a comment as to why they shared it.

It’s because I am genuinely interested in why you want to share it with me. I want to know why you decided to make that article part of your online presence. I want to know why you want me to read it. It could be a genuine plug for something you wrote, or maybe it’s something you feel passionate about. Either way, tell me your opinion so that I can engage with your point of view. Even if it’s something as simple as “love this article, really speaks to my point of view on this topic” – magical, something people can engage with.

Now I know it is very popular to use tools like Buffer and Hootsuite to manage your social media presence –  I think they are great. Sometimes you want to share lots of articles in one day then nothing, it’s good to have a tool that moderates the distribution of your content so you don’t become a crazy LinkedIn spammer. However I can tell when you have just put in a whole bunch of articles just “for the shares” because you haven’t got any commentary. Commentary takes time and energy, you need to digest the information and form an opinion. Can’t do that if you are all like “I need to fill my buffer feed!”.

I think that approach works on Twitter because the life span on Twitter is about 18 minutes – so broadcast to your hearts content. LinkedIn posts have about a 24 hour life span so you have a great opportunity to connect with others and make genuine connections. Why are you wasting this opportunity. When people say to me that they don’t know what to post or they are afraid of what a potential employer might say my response is the same – use common sense. If you don’t have common sense then don’t use social media.

Your relationship with social media will change over time. You will find the forums that add the most benefit to you and figure out how often you should engage, the important part is that you do try. Put your ideas into the world, get involved and give it go. Do everyone a favour and add something new into the mix!

More on social media: http://www.weidert.com/whole_brain_marketing_blog/bid/206554/are-you-maximizing-the-shelf-life-of-your-social-media 

Image credit: Flikr | Nan Palmero

Making your employees use social media

It seems that every smart employer has a social media strategy of some sort. We acknowledge that communicating with our customers is what strong brands are all about these days.  More and more we are seeing employers involving their team members on social media, asking them to engage with hashtags and share what’s going on at the company. I completely advocate for this approach. Get your team involved on social media, it’s good for your recruitment brand and your culture if you get it right.

But can you mandate your employees to be part of your strategy? Can you wake up one day and decide it’s going to be part of everyone’s job to post to Twitter and LinkedIn. Sure you can draft a policy that makes it so, but does it really? Social media is about freedom. Freedom to connect, express your opinion and who you are. If your employees choose to engage in your strategy then that is great, but you shouldn’t place any direct or indirect pressure on them to post and share content about the company on their personal profiles.

If you want to go down this path you should consult your team members about the change. Remember these are their personal accounts you want to influence. These accounts that are attached to their names and internet identify for life, consultation is key.

Social media is a bit of unchartered territory and we are all learning and growing with it. But we must never lose sight of what makes social media valuable – the freedom and power to express our voices.

Image credit: Jason Howie | Flickr