Redefining Networking: How to Create Authentic Connections

Estimated reading time ~ 4 min
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Networking

Raise your hand if you ever felt like networking was superficial or a complete waste of your time.

As a Career Counselor, I used to hear this all the time from the students I worked with. I completely understand the frustration around having to “pitch” yourself in order to access opportunities or resources. However, successful networking is not about schmoozing with distinguished professionals. Rather, it’s about creating genuine connections with others. No matter where you are or who you are talking to, it’s possible to build relationships that can lead to future opportunities.

Follow these tips to reframe your mindset and position yourself to leave a lasting impression on those you meet.

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CHANGING YOUR MINDSET

When you think of the word “networking," is the first thing that comes to mind a formal cocktail hour or a large career fair with hundreds of employers? If your answer is yes, then you may be seeing networking only as a way to receive value from others.

Reframe this mindset to appreciate networking as a two-way street where you also offer value to those around you. Here are some quick tips to re-frame your thoughts on networking:

  • Confidence: Understand your worth and abilities. Tell yourself, “I’m here for a reason.”
  • Open-Mindedness: Any opportunity or person can be the key to our success. Tell yourself, “I am open to meeting new people regardless of their title/experience.”
  • Gratitude: People sharing their time and insight is valuable. Tell yourself, “I am thankful for this opportunity.”
  • Humility: There is always space to learn because we don’t know everything! “I learned something new today.”
  • Transparency/Authenticity: Share your truth and respect others’ truths. “I am right where I need to be”

Networking shouldn’t only be about landing a job or internship. Networking can afford you the following:

  • Connections/Relationships: Meet new people with similar interests, hobbies, or values
  • Insights: Learn about trends, leads, resources, or advice relating to my areas of interest
  • Collaboration: Access to people that can help me with my projects
  • Mentorship: Access to people who can guide and assist me with my professional development

Think to yourself right now, what do you hope to gain from networking?

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TIPS FOR SUCCESS:

Meeting new people is scary - and many of us are apprehensive to share details about ourselves and our experiences. Here are some ways to break the ice, get conversation flowing, and make building networks with new people feel more natural and genuine:

  • Be prepared with some conversation starters:
    • “Have you been to this event before?"
    • “Is anyone sitting next to you? How did you hear about today’s event”
    • “I love your outfit. Where did you get it from?”
    • “I hear that Porter Braswell is speaking today. I have been a fan of his since he spoke at my school”.
  • Talk about your passion and goals: People love to hear what makes you happy...
    • “As a transfer student, I am very passionate about giving back to my community through mentorship and volunteerism.”
    • “One of my first toys I got as a child as a hot rod and after that point, I knew I wanted to study Mechanical Engineering.”
    • “Last year I had the privilege of working for a small tech company as a graphic designer and I absolutely fell in love with the company's culture and close-knit work environment. I hope to continue to work for a company that has a strong mission and committed to diversity.”
  • Be Helpful:Everyone loves someone who can make their lives easier, so you can offer...
    • Contacts: " I have a friend who is a social media coordinator. I can connect you to them."
    • Resources:" I just made a free account with Jopwell and that is how I heard about tonight's event."
    • Talent: "I would to offer my services as an editor if you ever need assistance"
  • Close Strong & Follow-Up: Make sure to show your appreciation for people’s time...
    • Gratitude: “Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today about your role within Jopwell.”
    • Active listening: “I never knew that your company was planning on opening a new office in my hometown. I am going to check out your page to learn more.”
    • Indicate the next step: “I would love to stay in touch, do you have a business card with you.”

NEXT STEPS

Maya Angelou, once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.''

People love hearing about the parts of you that make you glow, so don’t forget to talk about your passions, goals, and your bigger reason in life. I hope this article made you think about networking in a new way and that you will seek our new way to maintain those relationships once you have made them.

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