Some are naturals, and others find it challenging. Networking is a skill some are born with and others need to develop. In today’s technology-driven world, we are often simultaneously more virtually connected and more physically isolated. Circumstances make networking more important than ever. Whether you’re a gifted networker or one who benefits from coaching, here are a few ways you can discover networking that work for you!
Two Way Street. Too often, networking can be driven out of a need we have. We may be looking to add client relationships, to get another job, or to find sponsors for an event or charity. In most cases, we desire to meet other professionals for a need we have. Remember that we can help others with their needs. In fact, when networking, it’s best to be proactive and offer your assistance with others’ needs before your own. Even if you don’t see a direct connection that helps your project, it’s always nice to help those in need. Plus, who knows where your help can lead and who else you may meet through the support you provide.
Be Bold. You may not naturally be outgoing, and that’s okay. Perhaps you’re in a great and productive routine that you don’t want to take a break. When at a networking event, though, it’s good to remember to use your socializing side. Break out of your shell and say “hi” to others there. This can be especially overwhelming if you’re at an event where you don’t know anyone, but introductions are what networking events are for. If someone is not responsive in the way you hope, there are bound to be others who will give you a more receptive response. The goal isn’t to collect contacts like one might comic books; the aim is to make the right connections, those that will benefit both parties. Just go in with confidence knowing the greatness you offer, and others are certain to respond positively.
Get Real. Opportunities for networking are often facilitated in short time periods at events with lighter vibes. As important as it is to be professional and put your best foot forward, it’s also just as vital to be genuine. Making sure that you are truly representing yourself will more than likely make the relationship start strong and last longer. People gravitate to those they believe are being real and not acting with pretense. We want to help and invest our time in those we know we can trust. Give them every reason to trust you.
Give Thanks. These days, a handwritten note is a rare item, and rare items are highly valued. After you make a good connection at a networking event, drop them a note in the mail (“snail mail” as it’s called nowadays). Sending off an email about how it was nice to meet them would be nice, sure, but why do that when you can stand out? Be different in the best way. Reference a part of the conversation you had so you give it an even more personal touch.
Consistency is Key. Going to one networking event is a good start, but it should just be the start. You may make the connection who will change your professional life (or personal life too… who knows?) at that first event. However, attending different networking events more frequently tends to yield better results. It also demonstrates your own professional consistency and follow through. Just be sure not to over commit yourself and spread yourself thin. A focus on the organizations in areas you want to make connections will help you make best use of your time.
What ever spurs you to network, we hope these points make it time well spent and are mutually beneficial for you and those you meet for years to come!