Sidekick’s Guide to Effective Networking

What’s in mind at the water cooler.

If the thought of attending a series of uncomfortable (and forced) networking events makes you want to curl up and play dead, we understand. Sometimes the weird speed dating vibe of a professional mixer can feel, well, gross. But networking is an important skill, and we’re here to help you improve. Sidekick sat down with expert and author Kelly Hoey and communications consultant Emel Shaikh to get the tips and tricks that have helped them build new relationships and advance their careers. Here’s what they had to share:

  • You don’t have to be an extrovert to be good at networking. Hoey pointed out that introverts shouldn’t “confuse the gift of chatter or be the social butterfly [or the] party life by being a good networker. Instead of envying your chatty colleagues, Shaikh recommends preparing fun, open-ended questions ahead of time. Next, and perhaps most important, be a good listener.
  • Think about your first impression. In the post-Google world, first impressions no longer start the minute you walk through the door, because chances are a potential mentor or connection has already researched your name. So be sure to put your better self submit online.
  • Allow your interests to build your network. Sometimes networking can be as simple as taking a class or picking up a new hobby. Even outside of your industry, Shaikh recommends that networkers “take every opportunity that comes your way to explore, apply for every job you want to apply for, and reach out to the people who inspire you, [and] that intrigues you… if you send this email, you open up the possibility of someone saying to you, “Yes, I would like to chat with you. And it could change the course of your life [or] your career.”
  • Don’t just reach out when you need something. According to Shaikh and Hoey, this is the number one mistake most newbie networkers make, and it’s one of the things that makes networking so superficial. Before you reach out to someone, ask yourself, “How [I] introduce yourself every day as a friend, classmate, [or] a colleague such as someone else would like to help [me when I] reach?” Hoey told Sidekick.
  • Perfect the art of tracking. Making a new connection is arguably the easiest part of networking. Maintaining that connection though… not so much. Hoey recommends taking small steps to stay in touch, like sending an article that reminds you, checking in to see how they’re doing, or if they’ve provided you with a referral or put you in touch with a colleague, let them know. find out how it happened. Instead of focusing on what this person can do for you, work on creating a genuine connection, and recommendations and referrals will likely follow.
  • Do what works best for you. Contrary to popular belief, networking is not a one-time journey. What works for someone else may not work for you, especially if it involves taking actions that make you feel uncomfortable. As Shaikh told us, “There’s nothing wrong with taking a look at what other people are doing when you’re new and trying to figure out how to get your foot in the door. But it can’t be the formula you apply all your life. You have to find the formula that suits you. »
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Networking may not come naturally to you, so give yourself the grace and start small by reading books like Daniel Pink’s. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing or try The Wall Street Journal’s Five-Week Networking Challenge. You got that!—MW