by AUSTIN BAUN
Everyone knows the adage, "It's not what you know, but rather who you know," yet, what happens when a young professional doesn't know anyone, or worse yet, is too afraid, shy, and introverted to meet anyone?
In a nutshell, networking is building meaningful connections with like-minded individuals; the relationship is often beneficial to both parties, and in some cases, may advance one's career. Generally speaking, the earlier the network is built, the larger and stronger it can become.
I recently attended a business club meeting and a few representatives were present from different companies. I made a mental note to speak to a representative after the meeting was over. Fast forward to when the meeting ended, my friend was telling me how he wished he could "go up and talk to them like you do."
I suppose the first step in networking is being both fearless and short minded. Fearless in the mindset that failure is irrelevant and actually quite beneficial. Short minded as one successful or unsuccessful networking venture is very minor in the long term.
Let's say someone is new to networking and has little to no experience in schmoozing the counterparty. It is very apparent that the person approaching the rarefied is visibly tense, delivers a clammy handshake, and trembles when introducing themselves. By most standards, the exchange does not go well; however, I believe this is a very valuable and desirable outcome, so should you!
Congratulations, you bombed your first networking opportunity. This is an exciting moment for many reasons; first of all, the anxiety in the approach should have dwindled. Second of all, there are going to be many more chances to improve and schmooze the target. After all, the worst scenario possible just happened: rejection.
Not to deter those who want to network, but the following story is the worst encounter I have experienced while networking.
During winter break, I wanted to gain a broader perspective of the field of finance (my major). I cold call emailed several individuals from financial institutions all around Ohio. Despite the volume of emails I sent, I only got two responses, of which welcomed the idea of a brief phone call. I completed my due diligence on the individual and felt prepared to woo the individual who had attained an MBA from Harvard. Upon the initial greeting, the managing director inquired more information about me. As I quickly composed my thoughts, I uttered the tragic word "like." That was the exact moment the conversation went into a downward spiral. The next fifteen minutes were filled with vitriol and friction due to my diction choice. In summation, the experience was horrible, but not one in which I will regret since I learned a great deal about the culture of the industry.
Inversely, the positive feedback I have received can be culminated into a few different objectives:
These steps are not going to guarantee success, but rather create an advantage for oneself. Networking is vital in many industries and career paths. No matter the result, think of it as the launch pad for your networking career, and don't be hesitant to shake that hand.