Far too often, networking feels superficial, awkward, and transactional. Because of this, a fair majority of professionals hate networking. And people don’t do things they don’t like. So rather than skipping networking all together or blabbing about things you aren’t passionate about, keep reading to see our favorite networking tips!  

1. Move away from transactional exchanges, BE YOU! 

Treat networking like a normal conversation. After all, it is about building long-lasting professional relationships, and relationships aren’t made up of tackiness. Being yourself and speaking on your goals, values, and experiences gives you a better chance of forming a connection with another individual. Who knows, that recruiter your messaging on LinkedIn could be an alumnus of the same school as you!  

2. Evaluate your network and resources you may already have in place.  

It is important to keep in mind your industry and overall network. Ask yourself questions like “Who are the top professionals in my industry?”, “What is my goal?” and “Who can help me achieve my goal” to determine who exactly you should be networking with. You should also re-connect with anyone you’ve previously connected with that may be helpful. Think of past colleagues and professors.  

3. Business Cards, Business Cards, Business Cards 

No professional is networking by scribbling down their information on a cocktail napkin. Always be sure to have business cards at hand for any professionals you come across so that you can come in contact again. Even if you are just getting started with your career, having a business card shows others your level of professionalism.  

4. Have a loosely rehearsed elevator pitch 

This probably isn’t anything new or surprising. Elevator pitches are a key part of networking. But they don’t have to be so structured. All you need is a summary of who you are and the value it provides. Some short background can also be useful at times. If you over-rehearse this information it will sound too artificial. As mentioned before, it is important to be you so make this summary natural and to the point.  

 5. Get creative with your questions 

Rather than asking the typical “What role do you play within the company” or “why do you like working here?”, asking questions that make people think and that produce passionate answers. Perhaps asking an individual what their most interesting project lately has been would be a good starting place. Something like this taps into a person’s passions and makes for a lively conversation.  

6. Quality over Quantity 

At networking events such as job fairs, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the number of companies available to talk with. Don’t get stressed out and remember that what you talk about is more important than how many people you talk to. A quick introduction to 15 professionals means nothing if they haven’t gained even a little bit of insight as to what you do.  

7. Be Proactive 

Most times, you can’t expect to go to a networking event and stand around waiting for people to come to talk to you. It is your job to go initiate conversations. While it can be nerve-wracking to approach someone, give yourself a little pep talk and remember to just be yourself. If you see another person standing around alone, strike up a conversation with them. They will be glad you approached them and you will be happy to have someone to talk to.  

8. Small talk isn’t always bad 

Don’t be afraid to incorporate small talk into your networking. It is a great way to get the ball rolling if you don’t know-how. Small talk regarding the weather Is not always the best option but there is nothing wrong with using “have you been to this event before?’ To get a conversation started.  

9. LISTEN!!! 

Since networking is about building relationships, it isn’t an opportunity for just you to talk. Moving the focus off yourself after a quick summary will show that you care about learning about the other person and their work. Not to mention, listening is a key skill in the workplace so if employers see you are capable they will take note.  

10. Always Follow up 

Following up after networking is so important to building those valuable relationships. One conversation isn’t enough. Offering your business card and asking for one exchange is always a great idea. Perhaps even send an email or make a phone call within the following days. Sending a LinkedIn request can also be a great idea to make sure people don’t forget about you.  

From the introduction to the follow-up, remember to just be yourself. Strong relationships are built from proper networking. With these 10 tips, networking will feel less like a chore and more like a normal conversation!