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How to Network When You Don’t Have Any Connections, According to a Career Expert

You don't have to be an insider to build your contact list.

Image via Yurii Zymovin/ Shutterstock
Image via Yurii Zymovin/ Shutterstock

There’s so much advice out there about how to network better, but what happens if you want to switch industries entirely? How can you segue to a new professional space if you don’t know anyone in your desired industry?

Addie Swartz, CEO of reacHIRE, a company that provides resources to young women to grow in their careers and support to “returners” to successfully re-enter the workforce, offered some easy to implement tips on networking outside of your comfort zone.

By tapping into your existing network, you might find a lead or connection that can help you to the next level.

“You never know when someone you already know may introduce you to someone who can help direct you to contacts in a different industry,” Swartz said. “This has happened to me over and over again.”

And try to be open-minded about contacts and their connections and explore a bit every now and again “just a bit to see what opportunity might be connected to that introduction.”

Present your professional self

Show up like you mean it. According to Swartz, that includes “dressing appropriately, leaving your cell phone turned off and showing appreciation for the time spent with you.”

And when you’re done? “A thank you goes a long way when someone is taking time to help you and your career. Don’t forget to send a written thank you to anyone that takes the time to meet with you,” Swartz added.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Don’t phone in your appearance, “Always show up fully prepared. This may mean doing your research for a meeting with someone who can share experiences of a new industry for you, or showing up for a networking event,” Swartz says.

And while you’re at it, “Be sure to spend time on social media getting further information on the company or the topic, through LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook to get a pulse of the company or the current conversation taking place in the industry.

“The time spent in preparation will do much to help you in your networking efforts.”

Positive self-talk

Even after years of speaking to audiences of thousands or presenting to her board or even to groups of investors, Swartz always says to herself, “you’re going to kill it.”

She believes that “this positive self-talk will do much to reassure yourself to know how well you’re going to do at a networking event or even a one on one meeting. Sometimes we just need to redirect our nervous energy and thoughts in a positive direction.”

It’s also a good way to make yourself comfortable with a familiar pep talk before heading into an unfamiliar situation.

Remember where you came from

“When you’re about to walk into a situation where you don’t feel your confident self, it’s helpful to have a powerful perspective to share,” Swartz said. “In other words, you want to share a brief story on your background, experience or perspective which powerfully addresses why you are showing up as a confident professional.

“Can you share an experience in which you achieved success or recognition, letting everyone know you are a confident professional? Think of a past win or accomplishment and remember how good it felt to succeed, how effortlessly you were able to accomplish your goals, and how you have everything within you necessary to do it all over again!”

To take that to another level, just because a situation or career path is new to you, doesn’t mean the skills needed to succeed are new or foreign to you. Remind yourself of past wins, great relationships, and career highlights and try to bring that into the present.

And here are a few more tips to help you out:

Briefly step outside of your comfort zone

If you’ve ever traveled to a conference you’ve probably noticed that there were several conferences going on simultaneously at your hotel or conference center.

I always try to give myself an exercise where I mingle on the periphery of a gathering of strangers in a strange industry. Sometimes I actually strike up a meaningful conversation; other times I strike out completely.

The point is that I put myself into an unexpected headspace and see where I can go with it.

Order something else to eat

Maybe you’re in a professional rut. Hey! It happens. One very easy exercise to try is ordering something totally different the next time you’re at your favorite restaurant.

It doesn’t have to be something shocking or drastic, but something that reminds you that you can make small changes that ease your way into bigger ones.

Originally Published on The Ladders.

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