How to Make a Memorable Impression When Networking
Walking out of a speaker panel, standing with 150 other people just waiting for the opportunity to meet one of the speakers is an all too familiar feeling that I am sure we have all experienced. The anxious and nervous energy of everyone trying to push to the front of the crowd just to get a split second of the speaker’s time. Personally, I have never been a fan of networking. I find it scary, pressuring, intimidating, and honestly bothersome more than anything. However, over my past two years in the Queen’s Commerce program, I have become better at networking and finding ways to form relationships naturally. Yes, it is inevitable that there will always be times in your life where you are fighting against 150 other students, colleagues, or business people for the attention of one speaker or individual, but regardless of where or with whom you are networking, it is key to make a memorable impression.
Networking provides many valuable connections and introductions and is good practice for forming relationships in the real world. Networking allows you to build relationships with people that will help you find jobs, experience new opportunities, and further your knowledge.
As much as it is a hard pill to swallow, who you know will get you a lot further in life than any academic mark on your transcript. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t put a strong emphasis on school, but keep in mind that networking and forming relationships should also be a key aspect in your life, especially in the early stages of your career.
I believe too many people get carried away trying to meet and network with as many people as possible. This makes them forget to leave a lasting impression on any one person. And isn’t that the whole goal of the encounter? Don’t you want to be the one person that the speaker remembers after meeting over 150 people?
In this blog, I want to provide you with four tips and tricks on how to make memorable and lasting impressions while networking.
1. Find a common connection
Finding a common bond or connection between you and the person you are networking with is absolutely KEY. If you want the individual to remember you specifically, you must find a similarity or common interest between you. Not only does it allow you to dig beneath the surface of the common and boring small talk, but it allows you to really indulge in something that stimulates real interest and makes the person want to keep talking to you.
Finding a common connection is not only great for further connecting with the person, but it is a good way to make it easier for you to reach out next time. For example, let’s say you guys are both really into mountain climbing and you come across a mountain climbing article that reminds you of your conversation you had. You now have a great opportunity to reach out. Not only are you making a personal connection by saying, “Hey, I remembered that you like this,” but you are also making yourself top of mind, which is key to maintaining memorable relationships and job opportunities for the future.
2. Listen intently
I’d say this tip works for almost every interaction in life, but it relates really well to networking. I mean we’ve all heard the saying, “You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.” I can’t tell you how often people speak too much and don’t listen enough. Everyone can offer you something, so if you listen carefully and really strive to take in what each individual has to say, you are bound to walk away from every interaction learning something new.
Not only does listening help you learn, but the ability to listen well is a key trait companies look for. The ability to listen to someone, take in the information, and then use that information to gain knowledge, strengthen the conversation, or increase the flow of ideas is an important skill to have.
Listening will get you far in life and networking. Networking is all about forming connections and getting advice from people that you aspire to emulate. So by listening to stories, challenges, and successes of individuals with more experience, you can increase your ability to be successful in your own career.
3. Encourage sharing
When networking, it is common to get nervous and compensate for the nerves by overloading the person with key facts about you that you believe make you stand out. But most of the time, this doesn’t make you stand out, it actually makes you blend in, because, just like you, the 50 other people meeting the speaker are also trying to get as much about themselves across as you are.
So try a different approach to the networking conversation. Invite the person you are networking with into the conversation. Ask them questions about his or her job, life, work week, etc. It has been shown by The National Academy of Sciences that when people are asked to self-disclose, a chemical reaction actually occurs, one that is similar to the reward we feel from money and food. So, by stimulating the person’s interest in the conversation and actively engaging the individual, you will hold his or her focus, which will make you more memorable.
4. Be different; be interesting
Today, it’s the norm to go to university and graduate with some form of a degree. This means that now it is even more important to stand out in ways besides your transcript. Join clubs, volunteer, work part-time, and get involved. Find a passion and talk about that passion.
So many times, students and young business grads focus too much on things that truly are not that differentiating. As the saying goes, “You can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” so only focusing on transcript marks is a recipe for disaster. Expand your interests, experiences, and activities. People love to hear unique stories and initiatives you have experienced or spearheaded. Having different opinions, views, and experiences gives you the opportunity to further the networking conversation.
My advice to you is simple: pick three unique things that you have done or accomplished or been a part of and use them as speaking points. Utilizing your differences as competitive advantages will take you a long way in networking and life.
These tips won’t make or break your networking ability, but they will hopefully make you feel more prepared and confident. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and express your interest in meeting them and hearing what they have to say. Almost always, people are more than happy to sit down and share their experiences with you. When networking is done properly, it can substantially help you further your career, connections, and knowledge. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and network!