The task of networking can seem daunting for any professional. You want to make a good yet lasting impression on everyone that you meet. Building strong connections while networking can help your career tremendously — think potential jobs, gigs for your side hustle, and more. In order to network successfully, you need to build a personal connection with the people that you meet. Take the time to build trust, share story details, and embrace emotion because you never know where it will take you.
We’ve outlined seven ways that you can implement personal connection techniques into your networking.
No matter who you are talking to—a peer, an executive, or a manager—start by being genuine. Don’t let their position in the company intimidate you. Be professional but while still being yourself. Like most people, even executives are going to see through you if you are trying to be something other than who you are. Worried that your most authentic self isn’t professional? You can still be professional while showing your personality. People don’t want to a robot in front of them. Use your personality as your strength to make a lasting impression on the people you are. This will not only give people a sense of who you are but give them a reason to trust you because you were genuine with them.
Find common ground
When networking, try to move beyond just talking about the weather. Take the time to listen and get to know the person you are talking to. By doing so, you will be able to find common ground. Maybe you find out they work in the same industry that you do or that they also have a dog. Either way, these details that you can uncover can help you build a personal connection. These details will make you more memorable to the other person, which is exactly what you want when building a professional relationship.
One of the keys to a successful personal connection when networking is the follow-up. This can be done in a number of ways, from a simple email to interacting with them on social media. Following up is the easiest action you can take to ensure that a personal connection is established. That being said, make sure you follow up every so often — don’t just reach out when you need something. This can be as simple as dropping a text or an email. If they live in the same area as you, take them out for a cup of coffee. All these gestures will help make your networking success.
Don’t talk about work
Similar to above, when networking, make it a point to not talk about work. While it’s natural for work to come up in the conversation, don’t center the entire conversation around it. Find out what people like to do outside of work and see if it aligns with any of your interests. Maybe they are an avid rock climber or maybe they like to go to cooking classes. Connections can be built in these commonalities alone, but you would never know unless you asked. If you find someone who is similar to you, chances are you will want to work with them more. This not only helps to build trust but build a stronger relationship.
Eye contact usually goes without saying, but it is instrumental in personal connection. Eye contact shows that you are interested and paying attention to what the other person is saying. Not only is it common courtesy, but it can also be a precursor of how you are perceived by others. The less eye contact you exhibit, the more others will perceive you as rude and uninterested. Even if eye contact isn’t your strong suit, at least try with every person you meet. The more people you talk with, the better your eye contact will get. As a result, you are more engaged in the conversation, actively listening to what the other person has to say.
Talk as if you were talking to a friend
Networking can be scary and awkward but only if you make it. Change your perception of networking to be less about being impressive and more about building a relationship. Talk with people as if you are talking to your friends. Your tone is instantly more conversational, and it doesn’t come off as if you are trying too hard. At the end of the day, networking should be about building relationships rooted in personal connection. It’s not about how many accolades you’ve won or what you’ve done in your career. You want people to like you for who you are. That kindness and consistency are what is going to land you a strong relationship.
Put yourself out there
When networking, it’s not going to do you any good to sit in the corner by yourself. Build up the courage to work the room to talk to as many people as you can. You can even make it a game with yourself to see how many business cards you can hand out before the event is over. Networking is not as intimidating as it seems; everyone at these events is in the same boat as you are. Even if you think of yourself as socially awkward, take a networking event as an opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone. It will benefit you by giving you the confidence you need to build strong personal and professional relationships.
Networking can be scary, but the benefits are tremendous. Make the most out of your networking experience to build personal connections that last a lifetime. By building trust, sharing story details, and embracing emotion, you will set yourself up for success.