In August, Southwest Virginia Alliance for Manufacturing hosted the annual Manufacturers’ Expo at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center. This was a day filled with interesting speakers, informative break-out sessions, booths featuring the various wares of manufacturers and their vendors, and yes, networking. We hear this word a lot in the professional world, but it can take on a range of meanings, so much so that sometimes we wonder-what actually is networking? Today on Profession Concession, we’re unpacking what it means to network and giving you our top three tips to make your netWORKing time more productive for you, and your company (while still having fun of course!).
Research around the term “networking” got us thinking about why we use this term when talking about so many of our business and social interactions. Business Dictionary defines networking as “Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit“. We like this definition because it points out the importance of establishing symbiotic networking practices. Sometimes in the context of a job search, networking can be mutated to a form of opportunistic enterprising, an aggressive attempt at finding a mentor, landing your dream job and compiling a long list of people of whom you can ask a favor down the road….While it’s definitely cool to meet people in your field and even call on them for advice in times of need, it’s important to remember that networking is like a conversation, it’s a two-way street, where both people should be valued. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up three hot networking tips to help you out at your next trade show, work dinner, meeting and more!
1. Don’t be a parasite-Quick and dirty. Do not go into a room looking for someone to give you something, do something for you or solve your problems. Networking is about forming a vast web of authentic bonds based on mutual interests, responsibilities and industries. The point is, your goal shouldn’t be to gain anything quantifiable in your networking experiences. Instead, focus on being yourself, putting your most professional face forward and seeing what you can do for others! Then when you really do need a favor, people will be glad to help you out…
2. Treat the intern like the CEO-The intern might be running the place someday. If you smile and schmooze with the “important people” and completely ignore lower-level employees, you are walking a dangerous path (for your professional reputation that is). Of course, this tip is related to the first in the sense that, you shouldn’t only talk to the people who can do something for you. Treat everyone you encounter with the same level of professionalism and respect. Ask questions. Convey true interest in what people say when they’re talking. You’ll soon find that the intern has the ear of the manager that you’d like to get a meeting with…or you’ll find someone YOU might be able to help out in their professional journey.
3. Come bearing your gifts -This doesn’t mean that you have to walk around with a pocket full of presents for folks you encounter. In fact, you don’t need anything at all except your natural gifts and hard-earned skills. Keeping with the theme of giving more than we expect to receive, you’ll find that through offering up ways that you may be able to uniquely help an individual or company will catapult your career into overdrive! We are all busy and stressed out, so imagine how great it would feel if someone in conversation offered to take a look at a problem that has been a thorn in your side, great right?! If you work to show off your talent and willingness to help to people, it won’t soon be forgotten.
Networking can be tricky. We’re navigating the murky waters of professional relationships and trying to balance our own goals with the motivations of others. Like in most things, if you be yourself and demonstrate an air of egalitarian professionalism you won’t lose in your networking endeavors! You’ll form the lasting bonds that make a career all based on your own authenticity.
What are your networking tips? Share with us!
Photos from SVAM’s 2016 Manufacturers’ Expo; for more on the event, visit www.swvam.org/manufacturing-events/svams-2016-manufacturers-expo-its-best-one-yet