Networking can be stressful, unless you realize that being authentic is the key to creating a network that will boost your career. “The real you is the best you, and it’s the most powerful tool for forming real connections,” assures Michelle Tillis Lederman, a specialist in enhancing interpersonal communications and author of The 11 Laws of Likability. “When you show your authentic self, people will respond in kind, laying the bedrock for mutual understanding, connections, and growth.” As Davina Askin, Talent Management Executive, adds: “We often talk about quantity when networking…how many people, how many events, how many connections on social media…However, being intentional about where to network helps maximize the quality of new connections.”
Maintain Your Authenticity While Networking
How can you incorporate authenticity into the way you network? Here are four tips on networking with authenticity:
1. Consciously choose where to network based on your personal interests and your intended career path. Askin suggests: “Common interest clubs are good places to enhance technical skills – whether you are rock climbing or improving your Spanish. Be honest about your proficiency level and make a conscious choice about where you belong. Since this is all about you, join a group with a proficiency level just above yours. This way, you are close enough to the baseline so other participants will respect your current competencies and be willing to welcome and nurture your growth.”
2. Join groups that are open and welcoming to new members. If you’re not comfortable, you will start to feel like you can’t be authentic—you start behaving the way you think you should. Askin says: “Regardless of club or professional association, join a group whose reputation is friendly so you don’t have to work too hard to initiate conversation! If you choose to enter a group whose reputation is less friendly but still has value for you, remember to not take it personally if engaging with others is a bit challenging. Often, being seen repeatedly will help break the ice so perseverance is key.”
3. Cultivate the connections you want to have, not the ones you think you should have. The most valuable career-sustaining network is the one made up of people who not only respect you, but also genuinely like you. “Build relationships with the people you enjoy, based on your authentic experiences of them—that is, when you are being your authentic you,” Lederman advises. “The rest will follow.”
4. Perhaps the best way to network is to take a career-building class. Not only will you be building your resume with solid skills, you’ll be exposed to the same group of like-minded individuals for a longer period of time. There is less pressure in a class to immediately make an impression. It’s not speed dating–it’s spending time with other professionals who are interested in building a similar skill set. In class and during breaks you can discuss why you are taking the class and develop relationships naturally.
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