When you think networking, what comes to mind?
Personally, the quick flash of my college years, dressed in clothes that made me feel stuffy, walking into a conference room with my printed resume, and awkwardly trying to “meet” as many businesses as possible comes up.
I walked around the room, with hundreds of booths lined up, trying to wait my turn to talk to a recruiter, manager, or honestly, whoever would talk to me.
Usually after those “career fairs”, I always thought” well damn – I’m never getting hired.”
Networking used to be a nasty word in my vocabulary.
It sounded dirty, cheesy, and extremely stuffy – so I always thought I was bad at it. Now, years after graduating from college and becoming my own business owner, networking is one of my favorite activities to meet new business partners, collaborators, and friends!
After networking up a storm in Washington, DC and now making the transition into Madrid, Spain – I’ve learned a few simple networking tips in English AND Spanish that have helped me along the way.
1. Be open
First of all, if you go into a networking situation with the intention of only serving yourself – I think you’re doing it TOTALLY wrong. I’ve met people who didn’t necessarily connect with my business in any way, but have led to referrals, references, and just friendship. Being open to any possibility or opportunity to connection and relationship building has allowed me to make friends from different industries, have a different perspective on my business, and ultimately helped me grow.
*Pro tip: Networking is about relationship building – like, real relationship building and connection. Not fake I help you, I expect you to help me type of deal!
2. Take initiative
My mother always taught me that you don’t get what you want by sitting and waiting for it, you have to ask for it. I’ve been turned down many times from “coffee chats” or meetings with people, but it’s also led me to other opportunities all thanks to asking and taking the initiative. If you find someone online (or in-person) that you think you could really “vibe” with or have a great relationship with, take the initiative and reach out to them first. This is how I’ve made most of my friends, by using Instagram, as a way to meet them and connect!
*Pro tip: The people who I’ve made the biggest connections with are people that I felt I could actually be friends with them in real life. I reached out, asked for a coffee chat (virtual or in-person), and continue to build my relationship with them!
The golden rule of networking is to follow-up. People get busy. You get busy. People forget. You forget. It’s totally normal! Follow-up if you’re really interested in meeting with someone and staying in touch with them! Of course, I would also say learn how to “read between the lines” and know when someone isn’t interested but can’t be direct about it.
4. Get to know them and their story
Networking is all about getting to know someone and their story. Why did they decide to go this route, how did they get to where they are, and understanding their journey.
- Take the time to listen, listen, and listen even more!
- Ask questions
- Engage and make connections
- Don’t make it a one-sided thing…
- THANK THEM for their time
People love being heard and understood. If you’re reaching out to someone for a networking date with them, take the time to listen and don’t butt in!
5. Collaborations and giving value
The simplest tip I can share with you about networking is the idea of collaboration and giving value. Although someone who you’re networking with might not be your ideal client, that doesn’t mean that you can’t share referrals and connections with them! I’ve met people who work in the same field as I do, have the same position, or were in a completely different sector, yet they were able to share connections, references, and information with me to help me grow my business, network, and get new ideas!
I believe it’s all about giving value and seeing what we can do for someone else – even if it’s something small. How can we start building connections and relationships with people to foster collaboration? That’s the power of networking!
Now that I’m working in two different languages and with people from all over the world – I’m learning a few tips and tricks that make it easier to connect with people. Cultural differences are HUGE and the impact they play on building relationships is a key role in how we can build connections and a network of people that can support us. Below I’ve listed out some of the main differences between networking within the United States and Spain!
- Put yourself out there
- Less time to feel comfortable
- Make the plans
- Show enthusiasm
Spanish culture (Spain):
- Reach out first
- More time to feel comfortable (longer talks)
- Make plans immediately
- Listen, listen, listen
What are some of your best tips for networking? What’s the worst advice you’ve received on networking? I want to know in the comments below!
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