The Keys to Networking: Alternative Places to Network

Last month, I started a mini series on networking. We’ve already covered the do’s and dont’s of networking body language. So this month let’s delve into the places where you can put your new body language knowledge to work, that aren’t always on the forefront of people’s mind when they think “networking”.

Cafes & Coffee Shops

This one is definitely a little more uncomfortable to think about, because most people are either plugged in or with acquaintances when they’re at coffee shops. But, coffee shops can be the key to finding key players in your industry. Different coffee shops have different vibes and different clientele, so find one that seemingly aligns with the field that you’re trying to connect with. Then, become a regular. Strike up small talk in line or with people you’re sitting near. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll end up with some great new connections that also double as coffee buddies.

barbara mckinzie coffee shop

Conferences (Of Any Kind)

When people think of networking, they often think they can only really get great networking done at events that specifically cater to the industry that they’re in. But that’s not always true. If you’re attending a conference for anything, business, leisure, or anything in between, use that opportunity to start building connections. The best part about attending a conference is that you are surrounded by people who are just as passionate and excited about a particular topic as you are. That unifier is an easy way to break the ice, and you’ll be able to build a personal connection more quickly than if you were in a space that was strictly business-networking specific.

 barbara mckinzie confernce

Classes (College or Otherwise)

Attending a class, whether you’re working towards a degree or just pursuing a new bit of knowledge are a great place to network. If you’re taking an industry related class, you know that you’re surrounded by people who do what you do and (probably) know people that you want to know. Use break periods to strike up a conversation with your classmates. If there aren’t breaks, create a study group or arrange a coffee date. You’ll never know how you and your classmates will be able to help each other if you don’t make the effort to connect!

barbara mckinzie classroom

The Keys to Networking: Body Language

No matter what industry you’re in, we all know the golden rule: It’s All About Who You Know.

Networking is hugely important for growth in any career path. Being well connected leads to opportunities for growth, advancement, and even mentorship that you may not have had access to otherwise.

The realm of networking may feel intimidating and unattainable for many, so I’m starting a mini series on networking to help eliminate some of the guesswork for you. This month, let’s touch on what I think is the most important part of networking: Body Language.

Networking can be an inherently awkward task, especially for individuals who are not naturally extroverted. Since networking is almost always interactions between relative strangers, first impressions are key, and body language is one of the first things that you’ll be judged on. Here are a few things to keep in mind about your body when you’re making these in person connections:

 

Make (Reasonable) Eye Contact

When speaking with someone face-to-face, make the effort to look them in the eye. The inability to make eye contact signals deceit or discomfort to others, and that’s absolutely not the impression that you want to make.

Looking someone in the eye makes them feel valued and assures the person that you are speaking to that you are interested.  According to Inc. Magazine,

“When you don’t look people in the eye, they are less likely to look at you. And when they stop looking at you, they start thinking about something other than what you’re saying, and when that happens, they stop listening.”

On the same note, make sure that you’re not holding a gaze that is too aggressive; use bodily cues to gauge the level of eye contact you should be making.

 

Stand Up Straight

good posture

If you have a desk job, it’s likely that your posture has suffered a bit over the years. When you’re out at events, be mindful of the slouch. Straighten your spine and push your shoulders back. Good posture signals self assuredness, while a slouch well give off the air of being tentative and unsure.

 

 

 

 

 

Uncross Your Arms

This one has been said a million times before, but it’s absolutely relevant enough to be repeated here. It’s even listed as Forbes worst body language mistakes to make.  Many times, we will subconsciously cross our arms as a defense mechanism. Crossed arms are a literal barrier that you’re putting between you and the person you’re talking to. When your arms are crossed, you’re letting your companion them know that you’re not comfortable with them, and that’s counterproductive when trying to build a personal connection with someone.

 

Thank you for reading. Be sure to check back next month to see more tips on networking.