The word networking gets thrown around a lot. But what does it actually mean?
According to the Office of Career and Professional Development, networking is a process in which you build and expand relationships with the intent of obtaining more opportunities, both professionally and socially. As the old adage says, it’s all about who you know – and who might help you achieve your career goals.
It may sound simple on paper, but networking is not always easy. Even outgoing people who thrive in social settings may sometimes struggle to network effectively.
The good news is that it is a skill that can be learned. In a 2016 Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Learn to Love Networking,” authors Casciaro, Gino, and Kouchaki offer research-based tips on successful networking. They suggest:
- Focus on Learning: Resist your instinct to hide in the corner. Try to approach networking with an open mind and curiosity about what possibilities might arise. Ask questions and listen
to the responses.
- Identify Common Interests: The best connections are made between people who work on projects together. Practically speaking, this means sharing ideas and getting involved.
- Think Broadly About What You Can Give: Even if you’re speaking with someone with a higher perceived rank, you probably have something to offer. Can you help organize an event, help make others feel welcome, or offer fresh perspective to an idea?
- Motivate Yourself by Finding a Higher Purpose: People sometimes find it easier to put themselves out there when they are representing a higher purpose. For example: Is your gender, generation or ethnicity under-represented in your field? Consider how your personal presentation may help to shift stereotypes.
- Say Thank You: Don’t forget to say thank you or send a note when you’re on the receiving end of a mentoring exchange. People like to be appreciated.
Learn more about networking at the Office of Career and Professional Development.