Business gets done on the back of your connections. You may be the smartest person in the room (if you are in fact the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room) but that may not make you the most successful person in the room. In order to get ahead, you need to know how to network. This concept, however, is frightening to many.
The ability to start a conversation with a complete stranger is one that takes work. Some may be born with this ability to politick, but for others it must be learned. This is an essential skill that will get you ahead of the eight-ball and further in your career than any book or class ever will. The power of connecting with people is one of the most important skills you can learn as a young professional. So how do you get started? Keith Lee at AssociatesMind gives a great primer on networking and how to improve your ability to make connections.
First, identify someone who seems approachable. Someone by themselves or just a couple of people. Make eye contact, and confidently go and introduce yourself. Most people can do this part, but flounder at what comes next. Dr. Carol Flemming, a communications consultant, has a small talk strategy that almost anyone can follow and utilize, call the ARE Technique – anchor, reveal, encourage.
An anchor is simply a shared observation. Either something related to the event you are at, or a topic that is on hand. Even the dreaded “weather option.” Don’t worry stressing over finding something incredibly interesting to say. Almost everyone realizes that these initial forays are simply the polite and necessary first steps required before you move into substantial conversation.
“They really laid out the red carpet for this years party.”
The reveal is merely sharing something about yourself, that is related to the anchor. By offering up something about yourself, you are extending yourself out to the other person and providing them with something to respond to.
“There is a much larger crowd than there was when I attended the party last year.”
Time to get the other person involved. Ask questions related to your reveal that seek to find out if the other person has some connection to your reveal. These questions usually start off with something like:
- Tell me about…
- Have you ever…
- What brought you to…
- How do you know…
- When did you…
“Is this your first time coming to the party?”
At this point you should be able to push the conversation along, either continuing to use the ARE technique, or segueing into a more in-depth conversation.
- “It’s your first time? How did you hear about it/who invited you?”
- “You were here last year as well? I’m surprised we didn’t bump into each other. Did you see/Do you know…?”
It’s a very simple technique that almost everyone should be able to use immediately. It might still be a bit awkward at first, but like everything else, you’ll get better with practice. Give it a try at the next holiday party you attend and see if you aren’t able to put your small talk anxiety to rest.
Make sure that you have business cards ready to hand out to your new connection, but most importantly make sure that you get their card. Once you have their contact information, make sure to follow up with the new contact. Send them an email, connect with them on LinkedIn and take an interest in what they do and who they are. Get together for lunch or coffee, send them an interesting article you read or information about an event you think they might enjoy. Networking is about building connections with people, not just getting contact information so you can use people. Make sure you are making the extra effort to build lasting connections with people.
You can read this and many more articles about how to get ahead as a young professional at Associatesmind.com