I started networking over two decades ago, and I’m sure I’ll continue long after I retire, because it has helped me in all stages of my personal and professional life. Networking didn’t come naturally to me, but after much practice, I grew to enjoy it. In fact, before the pandemic, I was actively networking at least 5 times a week, every week, and I maintained this momentum for more than a year.
Now, I’m sharing my learned lessons and favorite strategies to help you build confidence, develop stronger connections, and achieve your career goals in my four-part webinar series on networking:
I remember the first step I took in strategic networking. I was an undergraduate student, and I went to ask my professor a question. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it took me years to decide and plan this move. You see, I had been observing classmates that regularly spoke with professors after lectures. I overheard their questions and often thought, you could have easily figured that out on your own; why risk leaving a negative impression? It took me an embarrassing amount of time to realize they were trying to lay the groundwork for obtaining reference letters. Although I didn’t agree with their approach, I certainly admired their courage.
Since I couldn’t think of a better way to stand out in class, I combined their strategy with my authenticity. My plan was to go to my nicest professor’s office hours, where there wouldn’t be onlookers, and ask him a good question.
It took several months to think of a question that met all the following conditions:
- Something I was curious to know to demonstrate genuine interest in his area of expertise
- Something relevant to the curriculum but not covered by course materials to demonstrate higher-level thinking and holistic application of knowledge
- Something not commonly asked to demonstrate critical thinking and engage in an interesting and memorable conversation
Today, I can’t remember what the question was, but I do remember him pausing to think before answering. I took it as confirmation of an impactful question. Then, I asked a follow-up question based on his answer to show that I was listening, processing, and capable of furthering discussion. I left smiling because I was grateful for the pleasant experience. Although I didn’t end up asking for a reference letter, this encounter motivated me to ask more questions, start conversations with experts, and trust my instincts.
So, what does this mean for you? It means that you can start anywhere, take things one step at a time, and choose people carefully when your goal is to build confidence.
For those of you that are new to networking, this four-part webinar series will help you get started.
For those of you who are already comfortable networking, my webinars will provide you with new perspectives and unique strategies to try.