Why are we so naturally afraid of networking? Maybe it sounds too formal, to risky, or insincere. Networking doesn’t have to be hard or frightening, and can actually be fun and rewarding. There are a few simple steps you can take to cultivate good networking skills, which will make speaking to strangers new and exciting!
1. Obey the 5 second rule. If you see someone interesting and don’t initiate a conversation within the first five seconds, you are likely to overthink it and not talk at all. Just jump right in!
2. Find out what the other person is passionate about or find out what the industry trends are in their line of work. Everyone loves to be seen as a subject matter expert, and most people have expertise in their work. Give people the opportunity to talk about what they know well and not only will it make them feel good and remember you positively, but also you will learn many new things!
3. Find a way to learn and remember names. I admit it – I am terrible with names! I have to make a very deliberate effort to remember a name, usually by creating a rhyme or other visual association in my mind. If you can remember the names of all the bones in the human body, you can remember one person’s name! Use the same memorization techniques from your anatomy and physiology class.
4. Use names. This is also a good way to remember names, using them reinforces them in our minds. People love to hear their own name spoken; it creates a connection and sense of personal attention.
5. Listen to people. As a writer, I learned that the best way to create realistic dialog between characters is to have them constantly try to steal the subject. It works because this is how we naturally behave in conversation; we impatiently wait to talk about ourselves and our interests – sometimes thinking so much about what we want to say next that we forget to pay attention to the other person. Listen carefully; avoid interrupting or changing the subject to yourself.
6. Always say thank you. Appreciation is always welcomed, even if all you have to thank them for is an interesting conversation.
7. Create a follow up protocol. When you meet new and interesting people, think of ways to stay connected. For example, you may want to follow up with email within a week, or send a Linked In request. Or, since you listened so well to their passion and work, you may forward them a relevant article or ask a follow up question to keep the conversation going. Find ways to help other people you have met.
You will notice that there is a theme here, caring about other people. As a nurse, you already are professionally and personally inclined toward that! Networking isn’t about racking up contacts as potential resources; it’s about creating relationships. It is a two way street, and you will be able to help others as much as they may be helpful to you. Networking is a habit that you can cultivate and constantly improve on. It is an attitude of openness that will create more possibilities for you now and in the future.
Does networking makes you nervous? Here's 7 steps from Nurse iCON to make it easier.
Editor's Note: This post comes from Stacie Hill, Program Coordinator for Nurse iCON, Michigan's source for nursing career resources. For more information, visit Nurse iCON here. Contact Stacie at firstname.lastname@example.org.