5 Tips to Network More Authentically
Most of us have, at some point, felt fake while networking. The traditional idea of networking and networking events usually includes a lot of polite small talk that maybe ends in exchanging business cards, with no clear steps on what to do next. Do you reach out first? Or do they? Should you send an email or call them directly? How long should you wait? What should you say? Questions like these can often lead to inaction. LinkedIn has made it easier to keep track of people you’ve met, but collecting connections doesn’t necessarily imply a healthy, strong network.
If you want to avoid empty connections that lead to nowhere, try these 5 research-backed tips for networking to build authentic relationships with people.
1) Align your goals.
Networking fails when two people with conflicting goals try to force a relationship. If you’re trying to find an internship, network with people who want to help you find an internship. That doesn’t mean you should only talk to people who work at your dream company. Almost anyone can be helpful; the important part is figuring out where your goals overlap with the ways they can help you.
2) Help people find you.
There’s a shortcut for finding people who sincerely want to help you. Advertise yourself to people who can give you the advice or help you’re seeking, and let them come to you. By letting people self-select to help you, you skip over a lot of the leg work of networking.
Employers are just people, and sometimes people get lazy. They have a ton going on, and if the opportunity emerges for an intern’s help, or an entry level hire, many small businesses would rather search and find someone immediately. Taking the time to post and filter through inbound resumes can be a chore. Many alumni from your institution genuinely want to help, so being available at the right time can pay dividends.
3) Narrow your search.
Building a relationship with someone who doesn’t share your interests isn’t easy and relies mostly on luck. Instead, try spending a few minutes thinking about the professional qualities and demographics of a person who you’d like to emulate. To get started, consider things like major, job title, company, and location. Once you have a clearer idea who you hope to find, you can be more deliberate in your outreach and better articulate why you think someone can help you.
4) Find deeper common ground.
While your academic interests may currently take up the majority of your time, they don’t fully capture who you are as a person. Effective networking should rely on more than just having a major or professional goal in common. Try searching for people who also share your hobbies, values, and personal background. How do you spend time on campus when you’re not in class? Do you play sports or volunteer? Are you a part of any clubs or organizations? The overlap between two people with a passion for the creative design industry and Model UN is a stronger predictor of success for an authentic relationship than that between two people who study finance and want to work in banking.
5) Be patient.
One of the most important tips for networking is to remember that there are lot of people out there who can help you, so don’t get discouraged if one person doesn’t get back to you right away. Even when you find a helpful contact, effective networking involves working around the schedules of very busy people who can be hard to pin down for a coffee or a phone call. In Wisr, we make it easy to message and request phone calls with several people, increasing the odds that you’ll find a great connection.