Turning Everyday Interactions into Meaningful Networking Opportunities
As you gear up for the tail end of the semester, here are some simple tips to turn everyday interactions into meaningful networking opportunities.
Investing In Your Personal Branding
In a previous post, I stressed the importance of retaining a polished and professional online presence. Equally important, however, is retaining a polished physical appearance when in public. When we walk to class, commute to work, or purchase an item at the grocery store, we act as walking billboards for our personal brand. To put this in perspective, I was once approached by an individual simply because he liked my tie. Now, the tie itself was a mere $15, and I purchased it from a local department store. But, on that day, I took a few extra seconds to ensure the Full Windsor knot was ‘perfect.’ Those fleeting seconds proved to be worthwhile. I had no intention of networking with anyone nor did I expect to do so. Yet, I knew my appearance needed to reflect my personal brand. The gentleman happened to be an executive for a large golf equipment manufacturing firm, and our ordinary interaction turned into an exchange of business cards, thereby establishing an ongoing networking relationship.
Here’s the point: People are likely to approach you and start organic conversations based on your personal brand and appearance. In my previous example, had I decided to wear sweat pants, a hooded sweatshirt, and went unshaved, the executive would have been less inclined to approach me and start a casual conversation. Next time you’re either heading to a business casual luncheon with a co-worker or a solo trip to the grocery store, let your polished appearance reflect your brand.
Whether you’re on your daily commute to work or taking a flight home for “winter break”, chances are, you’re not alone doing it. All around you, there are informal opportunities to network with other individuals. If you take my advice from Tip #1, increase your approachability by temporarily removing yourself from the latest trending topic on social media, and remove your headphones, you might find yourself in the middle of a meaningful conversation with the person sitting in the middle seat next to you. By immersing yourself in your environment and removing the barriers you create in looking down at your phone or listening to music, you increase the opportunity to organically network. In my own experience, something as simple as reading a Professional Human Resources (PHR) book on my commute to work has turned into a conversation about careers and personal aspirations. The individual, in this case, happened to be a successful author and the Senior Human Resources Director of an incredibly large corporation. Talk about an inspiring opportunity!
Take advantage of the networking opportunities that surround you on a daily basis. Remove the artificial barriers you put up by solely engaging with your smartphone, and open yourself up to informal conversations. The relationships that you’ll build may steer you toward your next big gig.
Ready to take a leap towards establishing a network? Try this: the next time you find yourself either on an airplane heading home for break or on a train heading to work, take a look around your surroundings. Are there any hidden opportunities to network? Maybe it's a special logo embroidered on the jacket of the individual next to you (e.g. university or professional membership logo-wear). Try to use this item to spark up an organic conversation. You never know, he or she might be the connection you need to make your next big leap.