So, the time has arrived: You need to start networking again. Maybe you’re on the job search, anticipating that you will be soon or just need to get more acquainted with like-minded folks in your field. The challenge however is in re-establishing professional relationships.
It’s easy to get so caught up in work that when the time comes to network you might draw a blank when someone asks you “What Do You Do?” Just take a trip down memory lane from when you were a student at Emerson and you had to remind yourself to do the basics like, let’s see… sleep and eat! You’re in the zone, crafting your next project, collaborating with peers who speak your language in order to make something happen.
If you’ve ever felt stuck when this question comes up you’re not alone. Even if you have an idea of what to say, there’s a chance that all of the smaller details, highs, lows, and twists and turns that is career, can leave you wondering, What’s worth sharing? What do people need to know about me? We all love to be engaged in our work, but how do you talk about it, and are you placing yourself front and center?
1. The Highlight Reel and a Little Extra
To put it bluntly, you’re not in the networking game to discuss where you fall short, need to grow, or just areas you’re not crazy about. At times we may feel the need to tell folks our whole life story in an effort to be authentic and engaging. There’s no reason you can’t do that while focusing the most on your accomplishments, talents, and why you do what you do. How does it feed you? Where do you want to go next? Does it mean that you have to only focus on how awesome you are? No. Any employer wants to know that you’re going to hold yourself accountable for continued self-improvement. If you do have more career exploration to do, before networking, don’t hesitate to reach out to mentors and peers to start clarifying the message you want to send.
2. Snap Shots
Via email, a networking reception, or at a conference in between a session where you have five minutes to grab coffee, go to the restroom and hand out a few business cards, you may feel a bit like: “What just happened?” While it can be energizing to meet new people, two things are important to keep in mind: Who you follow-up with, and what context you provide them with. Meet as many people as you can when networking, then strategize your next plan to communicate your goals. A good piece to read on the subject is Save Yourself From Tedious Small Talk.
Building off of the highlight reel, consider some scenarios in your career that exemplify your strengths, knowledge, and the ways you’ve tackled a variety of situations. Similar to interview prep, networking affords you the opportunity to stay on your toes re: how you provide someone with examples of your work. It’s not enough to say you’re great with people. Be ready to back it up with a story.
3. Consistency: On Line and In Person
There’s a lot of noise out there and enough to distract you every five seconds if you let it. For that reason it’s all the more important to make sure that a website, FB page, LinkedIn profile, resume and even interviews tell the same story. For others out there also faced with a lot of internet noise, you’re helping them out. Of course you’re telling this story from different angles, but the end result is you showing self-awareness, organization and focus. It’s always impressive (and it makes you memorable) when your brand is consistent in look, feel and tone.
4. Build and Build Some More
As with many journeys we go on, relying on just one source of information isn’t ideal. You need multiple perspectives, many people with which to connect with, because at the end of the day it can be tough to connect with everyone you reach out to. Often people worry that when they do reach out and introduce themselves to folks, they think: “What if they say no?” Actually, that’s ok. It happens. People mean well but can get busy and it may take longer for them to really talk with you. Don’t be discouraged. If anything take a moment to look at things from their perspective. If you can put yourself in other people’s shoes, you can use some better strategies and empathy when networking.
5. You’re the Author and The Speaker
Even if you’re in a position you love, it’s important to stay on top of the message you want to send to your professional network. That being said, don’t let time, busyness, distractions or complacency keep you from staying connected to your brand. Google yourself. Check out your LinkedIn profile to make sure it’s still saying what you want it to.
Remember: Don’t let someone else make assumptions about you that don’t fall in line with who you are as a professional.