How to Network Without Feeling Like You're Networking
Networking is a necessary evil, isn’t it? At least, that’s how it's usually construed.
Nothing used to make me cringe more than my college counselors and professors shoving networking tips down my throat. “It’s not what you know but who you know,” they’d say — in that nagging way that academic advice is always given.
I quickly tired of this cookie-cutter career sermon and all the phony formalities it encouraged. Call it an intolerance for ingenuinity.
But when I recognized the error in my cynical thinking, I started to approach networking scenarios in a new way — and it’s made all the difference in the world.
Keep reading to learn how to feel more comfortable with professional networking using three powerful yet completely non-gimmicky tools. Hey, you may even forget you're networking at all.
Join a Facebook group
After college, it took me almost six months to land a real job. Five and a half of those six months were spent scouring the web and submitting applications. The last two weeks were spent pursuing a job opportunity I found through a Facebook group — a job that I ended up taking.
Entrepreneur magazine contributor Jacqueline Whitmore wrote a piece on the power of Facebook networking in March 2015. “Facebook is a great place to promote your professional brand,” she said. Besides the platform’s obvious social use, Whitmore says “it’s also a great place to exchange ideas and share opinions.”
Engaging with like-minded professionals through posts and comments in Facebook groups proves you can talk the talk and walk the walk — and people will take notice.
Attend a meetup
Meetups are the cocktail parties of the business world. Unlike weekly Wine Wednesdays with your best friends, however, networking meetups are arranged with specific, symbiotic objectives in mind.
Meetings may focus on a specific industry, job title or skill, and they often include presentations from influential guest speakers.
In order to make the most of a networking event, Harvard Business Review advises you to “think about how your interests and goals align with those of people you meet.” That means less small talk and more thought-provoking conversations about, say, the leading startups in your city or new tech making waves in your field.
Offer your business card
In a world founded on LinkedIn endorsements and digital portfolios, it’s easy to assume that traditional networking tools are dead and gone. But plenty of people — myself included — still tout the decades’ old use of business cards as the most valuable networking currency.
In September 2016, The Balance business guru Susan Ward argued the benefits of keeping business cards on-hand. Among them: The ability to promote your personal brand, improve credibility and connect with dozens of industry pros — without the need to call, text, recharge and repeat.
Preparation is key when networking is your priority. That's why it's wise to always have business cards handy in the event that you cross paths with a valuable contact. Like Ward says, “the old-fashioned paper rectangle is still the fastest and easiest way” to form genuine business relationships.