5 Easy Ways to Network Like a Pro

A lot of us hate networking. And based on original research by my firm, Flynn Heath Holt , women especially seem to dislike it.

But as much as you may hate it, it's important, even critical, to advancing your career.

Networking doesn't have to be uncomfortable and time-consuming. There are actually ways to do it in which you don’t have to act like someone else or go out of your way.

Your typical day actually includes multiple opportunities to use what we call in our new book, The Influence Effect, “the power of the informal” and have influence.

Here’s how:

Learn how to have small talk.

First, let’s talk small talk. Some are good at it—others not so much. But anyone can master the art of the informal conversation if you follow these simple rules.

Keep the talk light. Your conversation needs a relevant point, but it need not be uptight or structured.

Tell people something they don’t know. Everyone loves to learn something new and important. Think about what you can tell them to help them understand the context of a situation or explain why a controversial decision was made. After that, people will be more willing to share what’s on their minds with you.

Finally, don’t over-share. It can make people uncomfortable and telling secrets can make you seem untrustworthy.

Make it a recurring calendar event.

Allow yourself one time a week, for instance, to get out there. It might be a client dinner or a networking event, or arriving at work early for extra face time, or a monthly work lunch.

A sinple event every so often might not seem like a lot but it adds up quickly if you maximize your time and stick to a plan that suits your life. By maximizing e your time, we focus on an outcome beforehand; for example;  like meet high-level people or get questions answered. Decide what works for you and follow through!

Start walking.

We know an executive who arrives early to the office to walk the floors and chat with who's around--sometimes with an agenda and oftentimes without. It's a great way to get your finger on the pulse and build relationships.

For this exec, it is her early warning system. If she’s proposing a new project at the following week’s meeting, she gets the early feedback and she’s more prepared for her presentation.

Put your phone down.

Sometimes it’s a nervous habit. Other times it’s a way to get things done. Whatever it is, looking at your phone robs you of precious face-to-face interactions.

Stop hiding behind your screen! Talk to people before the meeting starts, on your way to lunch, on the stairs and in the elevator. Simply looking someone in the eye when you’re talking with them will help you make that crucial connection.

Have a meeting BEFORE the meeting.

This is something men are especially good at, and women, frankly, need to work on. For meetings, men are more likely to come early, get a good seat, and chat with colleagues. They stick around after the meeting to close off the discussion and talk informally about the other issues on their minds.

This “meeting before the meeting” is where the real work happens, and how key issues are resolved. If you wait until the meeting starts to express your views, it’s already too late. The time before and after a meeting is a chance to connect with colleagues informally, share your ideas, and gain their trust.

Many of the women we coach at Flynn Heath Holt Leadership guard their free time and insist that they don’t have the desire to get to know their colleagues on a more personal basis. Our philosophy has always been, try it and see how works for you. Stop over-relying on email and texting and get up and talk to people face-to-face.  Engage, ask questions, and find out about them.  You never know where it might lead you!