Let’s face it--networking is a necessary skill in today’s competitive professional world. Whether you’re an introvert, an extrovert or you fall somewhere in between, learning how to network efficiently can help your career. Why is networking so important? The most common answers are that it facilitates new relationships, it helps you learn about your industry and stay on top of the latest news, it generates business and sales leads, and it can present opportunities for job change--to name just a few.
We suggest you follow these five tips to begin networking like a pro:
1. Quality over quantity
If you attend an event with 100 people, try to talk to 10. Or 5. Set a reasonable goal and aim for meaningful conversations. What do we mean by meaningful? Don’t stress out about talking to everyone in the room. If you end up talking all night to just one person who ends up being a helpful resource, you have successfully networked! Extra tip: To remember the person’s name that you are speaking to (very important!) repeat it a few times during the conversation. Not only will this help you to remember names, it will show the other person that you are listening and paying attention.
2. Practice your (non-sales) pitch
It’s not called an icebreaker for nothing--walking into a large crowd of people already engaged in conversation is like jumping into cold water! Painfully uncomfortable, that is. Knowing exactly how you will introduce yourself can take the stress out of this moment. What should you say? Introduce yourself with a smile, have a few neutral conversation starters in mind, and be prepared to offer a personal anecdote--not a sales pitch. Eventually, the person or group will ask you what you do and you’ll be able to talk business.
3. Ask for an introduction
Chances are, you were invited to the event you are attending by someone there--an organizer, a former colleague, your roommate. Find that person and ask them to introduce you to someone. Then ask that person for an introduction. See how easy that was? Remember that everyone is there for the same reason you are.
4. Bring your card
Hand out a business card to everyone you meet, and be sure that it displays your contact information correctly. Don’t have a card yet? Invest in personal calling cards that display your name, email address, phone number and perhaps a short description of what you do. Bring a pen, too, so that when someone gives you their business card you can write something to better remember them, e.g. “we talked about House of Cards,” or “looks like Uncle Carl.”
5. Follow up.
Within a couple of days of the networking event, follow up with everyone you met by writing a short email that references your conversation. Then stay in touch by connecting on professional networks, of course including networking Hosco, by inviting them to another event, or by sharing a resource--an interesting article, a website, a book. Keeping lines of communication open after meeting someone means you have succeeded--you’ve officially expanded your network. Congrats!