Today’s Guest Post was written by the fab, Hannah Beasley. Her and I have a lot in common, so I’m thrilled that she’s contributed to the site! Check out her awesome advice below, and then swing on over to Brazen Careerist, where I not too long ago shared 5 Essential Tips for Surviving Awkward Networking Events. Because yes, networking can suck, but it doesn’t have to.
Seriously, if I read one more post spewing generic networking advice, I might punch a hole in my MacBook screen. I completely understand if you don’t even want to read this post, but please – hear me out. I’m here to de-bunk the mysteries of networking for GenY-ers once and for all. Hopefully, this is the last post you ever have to read about networking.
I have become pretty convinced that we have been over-thinking and over-teaching the whole concept of networking. It’s really much simpler than you might think.
Yes, you MUST build your network. Yes, networking is CRITICAL to launching you into your next big thing and growing your career. But networking is NOT something you add to your “to do list” every day, and it is NOT a crazy, difficult, challenging thing.
Based on my experience, I have attempted to boil “networking” down into three simple rules/directives/whatever you want to call it. Prepare yourself for a paradigm shift, people.
1 – Your friends are your network. Make more friends.
As young professionals, we tend to think of our network as this super-special and super-separate entity. In our minds, we picture four independent clans: friends, family, co-workers, and network. Allow me to escort you to the 21st Century. These separate clans no longer exist as simple, exclusive, formalized groups. You are friends with your co-workers. You work with your family. And your clans look more like a giant wad of chewing gum than pristine Google Circles. This is real life.
How can you use this to your advantage? Let go of the mindset that your friends are just your friends. Your friends are your fans, your advocates, and your resources. If you’re reading this and thinking, “but you don’t know my friends….!” – you’re right. I don’t. But maybe its time to make more friends, or to be a better friend. Great friends care about you, respect you, and genuinely want to help you. Find those people. Stay in touch. Be a good friend to them.
2 – Don’t be a hermit. Talk to strangers.
What does your daily routine look like?
Drive to work. Eat lunch at your desk. Drive home. Make dinner. Watch 8 episodes of Orange is the New Black. Go to sleep. Repeat.
If this is your life during the week, WARNING: you might be rapidly transforming into a hermit. WAKE UP. This is your twenties! You’re way too young to be a hermit, and meeting new people is far too important to your future to put your social life on the back-burner.
What’s the antidote? Go bowling with your co-workers. Meet your friends for lunch. Have dinner with someone you barely know. Get involved in your local community of young professionals. Listen, I know that a date night with your couch and Hulu Plus is oh-so-enticing, but there is literally zero ROI on time spent on your couch. Being social is a critical part of your overall well-being, and it’s a fantastic way to trick yourself into building your network while having a whole lot of fun.
3 – Tell your story every chance you get.
If you’re doing items (1) & (2) on this list, you are probably meeting new people every week, and one of the first questions new people will always ask you is “what do you do?” If your go-to answer is “I’m an accountant” or “I’m in law school”, you’re missing a huge opportunity. When you respond to the “what do you do?” question with the title listed on your business card, you are providing a simple answer that nearly terminates the conversation.
How can you really stand out? Every time you get asked this question, use it as an opportunity to tell your story. Instead of “I’m an accountant,” try “I work as an accountant at Awesome Accounting Firm, one of the largest firms in town. Most of the work that I do now is personal accounting, but I am working on getting my CITP, which I really feel will help me specialize and differentiate myself as the need for information technology expertise is constantly growing.”
Let’s face it – that’s at least 10 times more interesting than saying that you’re an accountant. You just became incredibly memorable and interesting. By sharing your story, you are also cultivating the conversation, and the (now curious) person you have just met will probably ask additional questions to learn more about you.
That’s it. Make friends. Don’t be a hermit. Tell your story. It sounds a lot like the advice your mom used to give you on your first day at a new school, doesn’t it?
Don’t over-think networking. Stop stressing about it.
And just get to know the awesome people in your life.
Hannah Beasley is a 20-something marketing + sales professional in Louisville who loves meeting new people and growing her network. She is a huge advocate for Gen Y & is obsessed with seeing young people change the world. Find her on Twitter at @_hannahbeasley.
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