If you’re trying to get a new job or break into a new industry but don’t know where to start, networking will probably have the biggest payoff for time spent. The downside is that to some, it might carry negative connotations of being overly schmoozy or insincere. Or maybe you’re one of these people who just doesn’t like asking favors of others (like me).
But networking is really nothing more than talking to people, asking for information, advice and/or perspectives, getting to know them a little and letting them know you. If you can converse comfortably, then you can network. Remember, people like talking about themselves. Ask for their thoughts and opinions on their industry, how their career path led them to their current position, what their long-term goals are, what advice they have for people trying to break into that industry. People love to give advice.
Think of it this way: would you give someone a little bit of your time or possibly help them if you were in a position to do so? When you get your job through networking, pay it forward and help someone else.
If you’re more of the shy and reserved type, don’t think too much before approaching someone at a networking event. The more you stand around thinking about approaching them, the more nervous you’re likely to get. Your hesitation might come across as lack of confidence and that can ultimately hurt your chances. Just take a deep breath, smile, have some good questions ready and jump right in with a firm handshake.