We all know the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know, that matters.” While this is not entirely true, the simple fact is it is not entirely false either. Networking, or the simple act of connecting with other people within the hospitality and tourism industry, can have a huge impact on your career and opportunities.
When you consider that nearly half of all job positions are filled through networking, you begin to see how essential networking is to your success.
So how do you build those connections effectively? It’s actually easier than you think. We’ve compiled our top ten tips to help you get started networking naturally.
1. Stop thinking of networking as working
Yes, networking is absolutely necessary for your career. But if you approach it like another thing on your to-do list, you are not going to be very successful. The point of networking is to build connections with other people and people do not respond well to being treated as tasks.
2. Be positive
This goes back to the first tip. Effective networking creates relationships and establishes connections. People prefer positivity to negativity. We all get stressed out and it can be great to have an industry friend that you can vent to on occasion. But that is not what you are looking for when you are networking. If the first thing people hear from you is a complaint, they will think of you as someone who complains and the truth is, no one enjoys working with a complainer.
3. Make the right connections
When it comes to networking, aim for quality over quantity. Yes, it can be a red flag for potential employers if you don’t have very many connections on your LinkedIn profile. But too many connections can also be a warning. Instead of worrying about the right number of connections, focus on forming connections with people you respect and admire.
4. Don’t expect too much
If you approach networking with a goal or connection quota in mind, you are going to be unhappy with your results. First of all you’re approaching it like a task which we already warned you, will not end well. Secondly, there is a good chance you will come off as needy or desperate. Keep in mind that when you are networking with others, they are also networking with you. Everyone want to connect with people who can potentially help them in some way. If you seem desperate, it will appear as though you have nothing to offer them.
5. Expect questions
When you are networking, one quick way to determine whether or not a connection could be beneficial is to find out what the other person does for a living. “So, what do you do?” is almost always the first question you will be asked. Be prepared for it. Can you explain your career path in 2 to 3 minutes? If not, give it some thought. You don’t need to memorize anything, but of all the questions you might get asked, don’t let “What do you do?” be the one that catches you off-guard.
Related Article: 6 key reasons why "now" is the best time to start networking
6. Search for common ground
Ever wonder why small talk starts with the weather? It’s because the weather is a common experience. It is an area that is understood to be common ground. Traffic is another example. But the traffic and the weather are universal and conversations about them do nothing to build relationships, aside from opening the door. When you meet someone, look for clues that you may have something in common with them. If you nothing catches your eye, start with small talk, ask what they do and what brought them there. From there you can usually find an area of commonality that will foster conversation. Just be sure to avoid potentially controversial or confrontational topics.
7. Focus on building a relationship
Networking is not just a way to pass the time in the evening over drinks. It is a chance to build relationships. This happens by connecting with one another and showing that you value the other person. When you find people you can learn from and people who can learn from you, it is easier to demonstrate that you value and respect them.
8. Don’t expect instant gratification
Networking takes time. Building relationships takes time. Networking is not something you only do when you are first starting out. It is something you do all the time, throughout your career. Believe it or not, you can always be networking, even when you are not at networking events. Getting to know co-workers and classmates is networking.
9. Ask questions and use active listening
Only ask questions if you really want to know the answer. Ask questions that interest you. Listen attentively to the answer and then respond. Not only does this help you get to know the other person, it begins to build a relationship between the two of you.
10. Be yourself
The fact is, networking is really nothing more than making connections and building relationships. The best way to find the right people for your network, is to be yourself. Don’t be nervous or worry that everyone will see you’re faking it. Everyone experiences imposter syndrome at one point in time or another. Just be you and you will be fine.
You need to remember these tips, as they're the key to success in this networking game. It doesn't matter whatever technique you have in play if you don't have these fundamentals down so download this quick 10-tips cheat sheet to keep them in mind.
Author: Lynn Bruines, AEHL 2008 and founder at The Prospi: Career Guidance To Help Hospitality Professionals Land Their Dream Careers.