Soar, Swim or Sink? Five Helpful Tips to Networking Success

Career, Networking

Why is it that some people have that ‘it ’ factor from the get go, and in others it does not quite develop?

Quite simply those that make it often have gravitas. We know it when we see it, notice it when it’s absent. More importantly how do we develop it?

The person with gravitas is the one you want to be with and around. They know what to say and when to say it and rarely have any awkward moments. They fit in while standing out. In the business world we most frequently meet them during networking events, functions or organisational situations.

If you have ever had a moment of being awkward or have experienced meeting someone who is awkward you will remember the cringe worthy situation clearly. The biggest challenge I hear people face is saying it is difficult to network because they want to avoid these moments. Deep down we know it can impact careers.

But the question is how are you going to build your gravitas? Here are five helpful steps to have you well on your way to standing out from the crowd for all the right reasons.

1. Making small talk that’s not so small

Think about the person you meet that makes you feel special and the conversation flows. People with gravitas know exactly what to say and when to say it. Discuss the seasons or events not the politics, discuss the experience not your experience, discuss the situation but no criticisms please!

Step 1’s rules are what might have previously been noted as polite conversation. In a world where social media reigns, remember your opinions speak more about you than you may know. Best bet is to discuss the common thing that brought you together, save your personal opinions for personal events not business ones. Those with gravitas make the conversation easy for everyone to be in.

2. Be seen and heard

Dress up not down for most occasions. Dress like those who you will be meeting, this enables you to be heard and seen in a positive light. Yes you could dress to stand out but you don’t want to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Step 2’s rules do not mean giving up your personal style and they do mean being sensitive to how others feel. More importantly it shows how you ‘belong’ to the group. Save flashy clothes, creative clothes and daring clothes for social functions not work ones. Those with gravitas fit in appropriately.

3. Offer assistance

Beware of those who ask for something too quickly. The greatest complaint I hear about networking events is when people ask for things from others they barely know. Remember you literally just met this person, now is the time to offer help or assistance, compliments, or information… not ask for help or a job!

Step 3’s rules are aligned to a time and a place. Yes this person might have amazing opportunities and no you will not miss out. Those with gravitas offer and accept not ask and receive.

Remember the age old philosophy of givers gain.

4. Food, drink, business cards and move!

If it’s cocktail food only take what you can eat in one bite. Only have one drink and hold on to it for the duration of the function. Have your business cards accessible and at the ready and make sure you move around the room, it’s not polite to stay with one group all event.

Step 4’s rules are easy to implement. If you are going to a cocktail function think about eating with your left hand, leaving the right one food free to shake and meet/greet others. That way you can also access your business cards (remember in many cultures you must present your card with two hands not one!) and present them clean handed too. If you are at an event make sure you ‘work the room’, moving between and among groups is important as it opens conversations.

5. Thank you goes a long way

Say thanks, via email, text or card or gift. Find a way to connect after the event. It might be sending someone a blog post, or something you discussed. It could be a fruit hamper and a card, connecting afterwards in a meaningful and personal way will help you to be remembered and make the right impression.

Step 5 is about building ongoing relationships with those whom you meet at events or work with for short periods. Being remembered for all the right reasons is easier than you might have thought.

It is possible to acquire gravitas. It takes time, observation (of people who have gravitas), preparation (before you walk into a networking event or function) and a conscious decision to be aware of how making a positive impact will help your career soar and move you closer to being the obvious choice for career advancement.