I've got to be honest with you, I kind of hate networking. Especially networking events. Everything just seems so contrived, and what am I supposed to do - pitch my company or product, or talk about myself, or both?
Networking can be tough for anyone, especially self-described introverts, but it almost certainly will lead to awesome career growth if you do it the right way. So that's what we talked about in our podcast this week. I'll leave a few takeaways for you here, but give it a listen to get the full picture.
Finding your mentor
Finding a career mentor is a great way to get a clearer picture into your future. The best way to do this is to talk with people. You've got to go to networking events or reach out to people who have more experience than you. Just make sure you reach out with something specific. You don't want to approach someone saying "will you be my mentor?," you've got to let that happen organically.
If you're at an event or get an introduction to someone on LinkedIn, think of something specific you're struggling with and ask for their advice. People are generally happy to help, and your conversation could become a solid relationship that helps you along in your career. Again, don't force it - try asking for 15 minutes of their time and see how it goes.
Also, reach out to multiple people. You can find career clarity from many different sources, it doesn't have to be just one person.
How to avoiding being awkward
So you don't know what to talk about at a networking event? Take the same approach as above. Ask specific questions. When I run into marketers at networking events, the last thing I try to do is pitch my company. Instead I like to find out how it's going for them, where they struggle, and if there are any areas they've had great success in. See how your experiences compare and swap advice (and business cards). Boom, you've already made a new friend.
Maintaining the relationship
In any event that you've found someone that could be a mentor, you've got to put the time into maintaining that relationship. Don't forget to contact the people who have helped you out every once in a while. Check in to see how they're doing, grab lunch or a drink after work. If you think about this like you would your gym routine, you'll maintain a strong network.
Lastly, always ask if there is someone else you could talk to. As you network, you'll run into a lot of people. They might not be the best person to talk to, but could be a good connector. Don't be afraid to ask. People are more willing to help than you might think!
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