Networking is tough because it can feel inauthentic and salesy, yet it’s important for success. When everybody goes to a networking event, nobody goes because they care about us. Everybody literally goes for themselves. This is the good news because no matter how good your elevator pitch is, it’s not going to be as good as the the advice here.
The most important thing when networking is to show curiosity.
One of my students went to a career fair. Instead of pitching herself, she questioned recruiters to identify what they sought in an ideal candidate. The next morning, she sent a follow-up email to a recruiter from Tesla saying: It was really great to me you. You mentioned Tesla is looking for somebody with international finance experience. I had numerous internships at big financial firms, one of them in Europe. I would love to talk to you more if you think this would be a good fit. She got the interview.
Identify the needs of the people you meet, then position yourself to those needs. This is true whether you’re seeking a job, seeking investors, or promoting your business to clients.
Curiosity also builds connection. We know that having, for example, alumni networks create connections. Why? Because we share a similar background. When you start a conversation where you’re curious about the other person, you get background information which allows you to identify similarities that you can then verbalize to build connection. When they see a similarity that you guys have, they’re much more likely to support you.
And number three, the real value of being curious is you allow the other person to speak. Everybody goes to a networking event for themselves, so they all want to talk about themselves. If you let them talk, they will remember you more because they’re going to really enjoy that conversation. You might through your curiosity also open the doorway to authentic sharing.
So remember the most interesting person in a room is the most interested in others. That’s the role to take when you go to a networking event. Don’t worry so much about selling yourself, even at best that’s just an introduction to a much deeper conversation of building connection and meeting needs.
Take the weight, take the inauthenticity and superficiality of sales out of the room and be curious, be memorable.
For detailed advice on how to network successfully, download 5 Networking Tips for Low Stress and High Success.