By Endya Watson
Quick: When you think of networking, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a setting with professionals suited and tied, heeled and blazer ridden where every word counts and every handshake is crisp and firm? Or is it the perfectly crafted LinkedIn request read 6 times forward backward left and right to make sure there's no typos and that it meets an "eager to connect with you yet don't want to be creepy" balance?
People can tend to view networking as a structured practice that requires just the right formula for success. The reality, according to Alicia Thompson of Edleman Atlanta and Susan Rosenberg of UPS is that we should think less of the actual definition and perceived pressure of networking, and think more about how we do it everyday to meet new people and learn things about them.
Thompson and Rosenberg gave great insight on the key tips students and young pros should use when networking during their session "Shaking Hands with The Right People: Tips for Networking " at PRSSA national conference. To build the relationships we're looking for, we should consider other ways to think of networking, and describe it in more personable and realistic words.
When the word "networking" brings on pressure or stresses you out, call it:
Curiosity: You have to be genuinely interested in other people and engaged with what leads to success in the business. When you're networking, confidently express questions and thoughts that show you're truly interested in the person you're talking to.
Journey: networking isn't just for landing a job. The relationship building that comes along with it is a lifelong journey that will be never ending in your pr career.
Altruism: Reaching out and meeting new people should be mutually beneficial. It's fine to think about what you can take away, but also think of what you can offer to others in your network.
Connection: Everyone likes to feel special. Take the time to research those you want to have and already have in your network so each interaction is personalized to their interests or a commonality between the two of you.
Genuineness: Transparency, honesty and authenticity are critical for a networking relationship. Keep those values top of mind to make the experience most meaningful.
Before embarking on a new networking experience, whether it be a PRSSA meeting or grabbing coffee with a pr pro, take the definition of networking beyond what you know and consider how you can make the most of networking by another name.