Networking - it’s like speed dating for professionals without the awkwardness of who pays for the drinks.
Just like you won’t find a date without putting yourself out there to meet people, it’s difficult to meet potential business partners, customers and contacts without getting out of the office.
Good networking takes practice. Yes, you might find yourself standing awkwardly in a corner at your first event with a glass of wine and your best friend from work...I’ve been there before. But chances are you’re sharing that corner with other newbies and the experienced networkers are making their way around to help corner-warmers feel welcome. Before you know it, you’ll have the confidence to start conversations with people you’ve never met before too.
Put these five tips into action to become a pro at networking.
There’s nothing worse than being set up on a blind date with someone who you absolutely have nothing in common with. The advantage of networking events is that there are many, and each caters to a unique audience. Be selective with the events you attend. Choose activities that compliment your role and industry and that would attract the people you want to meet.
Work in sales and looking to meet clients from a certain industry you serve? Do your research and find events that are most likely to attract that audience. Does your job provide services or products to young people? Yes, there are events for young professionals too.
One of the key things you can take with you to a networking event (besides your most confident self) is your best elevator pitch. People are busy, so being able to communicate who you are and what you do quickly is key to connecting and getting the important points across about your career and achievements. Take some time prior to the event to write down and practice your one-minute sales pitch so you’re prepared for the otherwise overwhelming question, “What do you do?”. It’ll do you wonders for your personal brand too.
Just like a relationship, networking involves giving a little to get a little. Rather than going in strong and speaking solely about your professional world and what your business has been doing, take the time to ask questions and build real, mutually beneficial connections with people. You never know where those relationships could take you - a new client, a future employer, or a friend.
If you strike up a connection with someone and exchange contact information, make sure you follow up. Make them remember you by reaching out via email or a phone call - don’t forget to reference something you talked about during the event. Better yet, if they present a business opportunity then why not set up your next meeting to discuss how that partnership could work.
If you hate crowds and can’t stand the idea of holding conversations with people you’ve never met before, face-to-face, there’s a solution for you. LinkedIn has become the largest professional network that gives people the opportunity to connect from the desk. LinkedIn is a great online setting to establish connections with people you’d like to meet and provides the opportunity for you to join communities that complement what you do.
Expanding your network is vital to any professional’s success. So, what are you waiting for?
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