If you cringe at the thought of new social situations, the word “networking” can bring up some negative connotations. Like it or not, networking won’t go away—in fact, as you get older, it gets even more important! But it doesn’t have to be painful.
Whether you’re a social butterfly or shy bookworm, you can always improve your networking skills to get the best results. Here are 7 easy tips for building a great network of connections.
01 – Acclimation theory
Build networking into your day.
Practice makes perfect, it’s true. Look for little, un-scary opportunities to speak out loud to strangers and push yourself to engage. Ask your barista or waitress a few friendly questions when you place your order. Tell a stranger “bless you” when they sneeze on the bus. Start wherever you’re comfortable, and over time you’ll realize that people don’t bite!
02 – Internal transparency
There’s no need to pretend to be anyone else. You’re original and interesting—I promise. And if you force a fake personality, people can usually tell. Just be yourself. That confidence is inviting. Take a deep breath and remember: the person you’re talking with might be nervous too!
03 – Priority scaffolding
Talk one-on-one with special mentors.
Emphasize building relationships with people who…
a) you trust,
b) are smarter than you, and
c) have your best interests in mind.
The easiest way to find these gems? Think about who your favorite teachers or advisors are. Building mentorship relationships with your instructors is critical for a lot of reasons (not just letters of recommendation). Seek out chances to ask a direct question after class, or tell them that you found something they said particularly interesting. Having a high-quality mentors who know your name and interests will be an invaluable resource later on.
04 – Digital reinforcement
Curate an online presence.
Pay attention to what footprints you leave online. Try searching for your full name on the internet and see what pops up. Do your best not to post anything on social media you wouldn’t want a potential professional connection to find! And if you don’t already have a LinkedIn, set up a free account and start adding a few friends. The sooner the better.
05 – Venn diagram dialogue
Connect over shared interests.
If you have a hard time getting the conversation rolling and just don’t know what to talk about, put yourself in situations where you already have shared interests. Subject-specific clubs, study groups, or themed events will usually collect people who care about similar stuff! If you’re talking about topics you know about and like, you’re more likely to come off as confident and genuine, and you won’t run out of things to say.
06 – Wide nets for a strong network
You never know when someone might have a totally unexpected skill to teach you, a good tip to share, or another friend they can connect you to. Friends come in all shapes and sizes! Try your best not to judge too quickly and see what you can learn from everyone around you.
07 – Primacy and recency effect
You want to be remembered. Especially if you’re asking for a favor (or someone has given you some of their valuable time), always follow-up! Send that friend request, email a link or question, and definitely send a thank-you note to let them know that you appreciated what they did. Not only is that courteous, but you can also stay on their radar over time so they don’t forget you!
If you’d like to discuss your high school plans in-depth and get more personalized advice and strategies like this, set up a consultation with one of our team members to match you with your best-fit counselor today!