It’s Friday and for what it’s worth it’s been a superb week, things really taking shape at Arch Graduates. For now, all I’ll say is I cannot wait to welcome some truly wonderful grads into our business and onto our April course. PLENTY from them to come in posts of the future.
This week I’m really just going to tell you about “networking”, a really curious concept, idea, action, chore or task. Networking is one of those things that I think 95% of people dislike doing, probably hardly ever do and by and large will avoid where possible. “oh I’m terrible at networking” is the most normal phrase in which to hear the word ‘networking’. (side note, I REALLY almost just wrote “IMO” – never have, NO IDEA where that came from, very glad I didn’t).
So, everybody hates networking, well, almost everyone and the vast majority of people don’t want to do it. I think generally if you hear someone described as “a good networker” the chances are they’re telling you that they don’t like this person. I may be overstating this but the point I’m trying to make is that in general, networking is disliked.
But what on earth is it? Really? I mean, sure there’s going to events and trying to meet people. But is that it? What else is networking? SUPER CHEESY move, but let’s get the definition shall we? There’s two, the first is about cabling/electronics, let’s move straight past that to “Networking, verb; interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.”
So if we translate that – we’re actually just talking about, very simply, meeting people.
So what on earth is all the fuss about? Really honestly I think I know the answer and it’s worth discussing. I think people generally think that networking is about turning up at events on your own (obviously that’s rubbish) and introducing yourself to a load of strangers (again, not much fun) and then having conversations with people who may or may not be interesting/useful/nice/pleasant etc.
None of that sounds like fun, of course it doesn’t. However, let’s replay that situation using slightly different words. Networking can be about turning up at events with friends, introducing people you know and trust to each other and being introduced to new people through people you know and trust. Suddenly this sounds a lot more bearable (dare I say a half decent way to pass the time?).
Now it’s entirely possible to only ever network in the way described in situation number 2. However it’s worth getting good at number one, it’s actually worth learning to love situation number 1 as it’s often during these sorts of events/situations where you strike up conversations that lead to the most honest and long lasting relationships. So, let’s accept that with a bit of careful thought and planning we can, almost always, orchestrate situation number 2, we can always take a friend or colleague, we can always make sure we know someone else going to an event, we can, and should make sure that the situations we’re in are easier for us and more useful.
BUT – let’s talk about situation number 1. Let me start by saying I have three rules to making these unwelcoming (frankly scary) situations useful.
1. Name badges are there for a reason
2. Open questions are the key to conversations
3. Will you excuse me for a minute I just have to…..
Name badges are your best friend, and I learned pretty late that it’s COMPLETELY acceptable to walk up to a complete stranger, read their name badge (out loud is apparently ok at this point) and simply say “So what does *insert company name on badge here* do?” – played through that’s “Harry Gooding, Arch Graduates, hello Harry, so what do Arch Graduates do?” That’s it, from here on in you’ve started the conversation. Rule one – name badges are there for a reason.
Rule number 2, ask open questions, let’s play the conversation through. Harry from Arch Graduates has explained what he does, follow it up with “that sounds interesting, do you enjoy it?” – “and how is business going?” – “how’s the market for you at the moment?” “tell me more about that”. Conversation is on – it’s easy right? Rule number 2 – ask open questions? *Open questions – more on these in a later blog*
This is just a little side note about how in general I assess how well the conversation is going by how many open questions I get asked – can be a useful way of checking!
And finally, Rule number 3 – don’t get “stuck” in conversations you don’t want to be in. There’s almost nothing worse than feeling like you can’t leave the *insert negative adjective here* conversation you’re having. If you’d rather be talking to someone else, or not talking to anyone at all just say “will you excuse me for a minute I just have to make a quick call | run to the ladies/gents | find a friend of mine I’m supposed to be meeting | say hello to *hosts name* | or anything else that feels suitable. The key here is that if you say “I just have to make a quick call” you do then have to actually do it (if you’re in eyesight).
So, if you’re a graduate at a career’s fair, or you’ve just started a job and you feel you “should be networking”, or you’ve been working for 10 years but hate networking, or you never know what to say to people you’venever met or anything similar really – those are my three rules to being a successful networker (or at least to “not being an unsuccessful networker”!)
It’s Easter next week – if you have any Easter related blog subjects or even just puns then please let me know!