How to (Actually) Network: How to Behave

Over the past month or so, I’ve detailed what a network is, how to start a network, and the different kinds of networking meetings (advice and research). 

Now, let’s talk about a fundamental aspect of any meeting, networking or not: how to behave.

You may feel very comfortable talking to strangers, which is definitely an asset when networking. However, I’m willing to bet that most people feel slight to extreme discomfort conversing with strangers. 

The best way to become comfortable in networking situations is to practice. You may feel awkward at first but, like exercising a muscle, over time, it will become easier, and networking will cease to be a daunting task.

With that end goal in mind, here are some concepts to remember the next time you meet with a networking contact:

Communicate with Ease.

  • Use a natural, clear pattern of speech. Don’t talk too fast or too slow.
  • Keep your tone positive and confident.
  • Relax—remember to breathe.
  • Use comfortable vocabulary. 
  • Sit up straight.
  • Paint a positive picture of yourself in your mind. Believe in yourself. You got this!

Actively Listen.

  • Every time you make a statement or ask a question, listen to the response.
  • Learn to tolerate silence. Some people need a moment to consider their responses.
  • Repeat or acknowledge earlier statements your contact made. This indicates you were actively listening.

Be Prepared.

  • If you have a referral, identify them upfront. This could increase your contact’s willingness to talk to you.
  • Have an outline of what you want to say and ask, including three or four probing questions.

Close Positively.

  • Thank your contact for their time at the end of your meeting. 

Critique Yourself.

  • How do you feel the meeting went? 
  • Ask yourself whether you were uncomfortable, what new roadblocks you encountered, or what you could do better next time.
  • Remember to also pat yourself on the back for the things that went well.

Follow Up.

  • Send a thank-you email after the meeting.
  • Email or call your contact periodically to let them know how you’re faring. Every 30 to 60 days is fine.

If you consciously practice these skills during every networking interaction you have, I promise you will eventually find yourself communicating with ease. 

Though this is a less technical aspect of networking, it is just as important. It might be helpful to consult with a career coach if you find you need the extra advice, practice, or guidance. At Don’t Dread Monday, we offer a free, 15-minute consultation with a career coach. All you have to do is schedule a meeting.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments, either by phone at 800.680.7768 or our website.

Until next time.