Networking doesn’t have to fill you with dread or feel like a chore. You’d be surprised by how much you network without even knowing it.
The key to everyday networking is being social. Keep yourself open and approachable. People are naturally attracted to friendliness. If you’re grocery shopping or pumping some gas, strike up a conversation or at least acknowledge someone with a hello. You never know who you’re going to meet.
Mastering the art of small talk will help you become more approachable. There’s no need to feel nervous in new situations. All you have to do is listen and you’ll quickly find yourself adding to the conversation. You might think you have nothing in common, only to realize that you like the same sports team or your children attend the same school.
Making connections with people is the first step to networking. The next step is to keep in touch. You don’t have to throw parties every weekend or meet for dinner every night, but you do have to let people know that you’re still alive.
The easiest and most convenient way to keep in touch is through email. Email isn’t just the formal correspondence you use in the office anymore. Email can be a powerful yet casual method of keeping in touch. Do you sometimes email a funny joke to a few people in your contact list? That’s networking.
Your emails don’t have to be longwinded essays on your ponderings of life. Keep it short and sweet. Give them an update on your life. Write a quick blurb that you bought a new car or just changed jobs and finish off your email by asking how they’re doing. A little bit of effort goes a long way.
Telephones are another great way to keep in touch. Drop someone a line and ask them what’s new. Chit chat for a few minutes to bring each other up to speed or ask for advice. Maybe you’re planning a trip to Europe and your friend was just there a year before. Ask them about their trip and if they have any recommendations on places to stay or interesting spots to see.
Networking is a habit. It’s about being open and social and genuinely interested in other people. Of course there will be days when you want to be alone or you just don’t feel up to talking. That’s OK. Don’t feel like you need to turn the charm on to connect with people. Sometimes just acknowledging that they are next to you can be enough. Spare someone a smile or nod in the affirmative when they make a comment you agree with. Pretty soon you’ll be networking and not even know it.
Catherine Zandueta is a frequent contributor to CareersandEducation.com . Catherine Zandueta is a feature writer that covers topics relating to MBA Programs and online colleges .