If you read our post about networking, you know that it’s one of the most important tools to advancing your professional development. Although you may now understand the importance of networking, you may still be wondering how to get started. Networking can be intimidating. You’re introducing yourself to strangers and trying to build connections, ultimately to advance your career and search for new opportunities. However, it’s important to keep that in the back of your mind, and instead focus on being yourself, being interested in the people you talk to, and making it clear to them that you would love to help them. We put together these networking basics to help you get started. Follow these tips to get the most out of your networking experiences.
1. Determine your network
You can network online, at events, with alumni from your school, with coworkers—there’s a ton of places to find people to connect with. Be active on LinkedIn and Twitter to build connections online. Join your local Chamber of Commerce for networking events, and check out Meetup for different seminars, group meetings, or mentoring sessions in your area.
2. Do your research
If possible, find out who will be at the networking event you’re attending and research them. Google them and check out their LinkedIn. If you can find one of their interests and build on that when you meet them, you’ll definitely find conversation easier. You’ll leave a positive impression by showing you went the extra mile and that you care about their interests.
3. Network Online
When you’re networking online, it’s important to stay active. So follow people on Twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn, favorite their posts, comment, ask questions, share links that make you think of them, etc. When you’re networking, the main goal is to build a relationship, not immediately get a job. When you build that relationship through a consistent and positive online presence, you’ll be at the forefront of their mind when an opportunity pops up that may be the right fit for you.
4. Attend Networking Events
Try not to join a ton of different networking groups. Rather, choose a few that you can really grow in. Become a member, attend the events, and you’ll be a regular face to the people who are important to you.
5. Try to Arrive Early
If you arrive early, you’ll be able to meet people in a less competitive atmosphere. Chances are there won’t be too many other people there yet, so you can start the conversations you would like, rather than trying to join in on discussions that have already been started.
6. Set goals
Aim to create quality contacts, rather than talking to as many people possible. Talking to 20 people, but having none of them remember you, isn’t productive. So give yourself a goal of creating 3-5 quality contacts depending on the amount of time you’d like to spend at the event. Don’t rush around the event trying to meet as many people as possible, but focus on creating a lasting impression on just a few people.
7. Have an icebreaker ready
When you have an icebreaker in mind before you arrive at the event, it can be easier to break into a conversation or to approach someone. Start by asking someone a little bit about themselves, why they’re at the event, etc. But then have some more unique topics ready for when the expected introductions end.
Have a book you recently read at the top of your mind, or a story about something you recently experienced ready to go.
8. Notice the details
Be attentive. Notice someone’s cute shoes, or the book sticking out of their bag. Compliment them. Show that you care about the interaction and that you’re not distracted.
9. Make your career goals clear
Be personal and passionate! Although you should let the other person do most of the talking, when you do talk about yourself be authentic and clear about what your goals are. When you’re as clear as possible, the other person will more easily be able to think of opportunities that will fit your goals. Plus, people can tell when you’re really passionate about something, and it rubs off! When you’re enthusiastic you’re also engaging and interesting, which makes you memorable.
10. Ask for advice
Networking isn’t just about new opportunities, you can also learn from the people you meet. Asking for advice shows that you’re eager to grow and that you respect the experiences of the person you’re speaking with.
11. Be confident
Smile! Be positive in your interactions and don’t be afraid to approach people. When you show confidence, you’ll make other people at ease. Everyone is at least a little bit nervous meeting new people, but if you smile through your nerves then you’ll be approachable and helping other people feel more comfortable too.
12. Ask questions
Be curious. Asking questions demonstrates that you’re engaged in the conversation. If they mention something that you’re not familiar with, ask them to explain it. Chances are they’ll be more than happy to elaborate.
This is the simplest, but most important thing you can do while networking. Be sure to attentively listen to the conversation you’re in. With so many other conversations going on around you, it can be easy to be distracted and drawn into another conversation. Try your best not to let this happen. It’s disrespectful to the person talking to you. So stay focused and really listen to the person you’re speaking with.
14. Share personal stories
Let your guard down and don’t be afraid to share personal stories when the time is right. If there’s a point in the conversation that reminds you of “that one time…” then mention it! It shows you’re engaged, let’s you share your personality, and makes you a bit more memorable.
15. Keep track of contacts
You’ll be meeting a lot of different people throughout your networking experiences. It’s important to keep track of them all. When someone hands you their business card, jot down a few notes on it once they walk away. Keep their contacts in your phone or in a document on your computer and keep your notes with them. A little description of what you talked about and some of their interests would be best, and you can build on them as you get to know them more.
16. Follow up
Within 48 hours send a follow up email to the people you met. Be personal in your note—don’t send the same email to everyone. Mention that you appreciated meeting them, remark on a few points in your conversation, ask any questions you may have, and if possible try to set up another time that you could meet.
17. Stay in touch
In the same vein of being active online through favoriting Tweets and sharing links, be sure to stay in contact through phone calls, texts, emails, and meetings. Hopefully your networking contacts will develop into friendships that span years, so it’s important to shoot your contacts an email every now and again.
Networking can be hard work, but it’s important for your career and can even lead to great friendships! We hope these networking tips help you feel more confident at your next networking event.
Do you have any more networking tips and advice? How has networking helped your career? Comment below with your experiences and share your story on UltiCareer to help people searching for different career options discover what a day in the life of your type of job is really like.
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