Networking Tips for Beginners
Networking is like dating. It's hard and you must work at it. But if you do it right, you'll end up successful. Like dating, there are now many ways to connect with people to look for and find your potential match, both online and offline. Wanting a career change? New friends? Expand your network? No matter what your purposes is, stick to these tips and you’ll be a networking pro and building your own Rolodex in no time.
CAST A WIDE NET Linkedin is a great place to start. Also, find a list of trade organizations in your city. You'd be surprised with how many there are. Some have a small membership fee to take advantage of their panels and seminars, but most have free happy hours and mixers open to the public. Look for events in similar interest groups and use Meetup.com for finding happenings in your area. Conferences and workshops are a pricier option but are well worth it. Most folks at these events are traveling, or are out of their element and attending for the same reasons you are. They've invested a good chunk of change into making connections in addition to learning, so take advantage of the after hours events and breaks to meet people.
I’M HERE, NOW WHAT? Nothing is worse than being alone in a room full of strangers. Don't panic. Be confident and do a quick lap around the room first to get the vibe. Look for others who are also solo. Make eye contact. Don't hesitate to make the first move. Introduce yourself to others but never talk to more than two people at once. Avoid being stagnant with one connection - make moves and work the room. If you must, take a wing person with you, but don't be afraid to fly solo and make your connections as well. Before you know it, you'll have a pool of business cards to start with.
INTER-NET-WORKING Don't have time to get out? Feeling shy? Try networking virtually. It’s easy and on your own time. Yes, it's much less personal in some ways but in this day in age, the internet and social media make remote networking much easier. Do your research ahead of time and make sure your online presence is up to par as well. Chances are they are doing as much research on you as you are on them.
FIND COMMON GROUND Six degrees of separation? More like two! It's an easy ice breaker to ask simple open ended questions like “Where are you from?" "Where did you go to school?" Or “What do you do?" to see what similarities you might have that can make way to a conversation. You'll something to bond over and might be pleasantly surprised at how much people are willing to share with you if you just ask.
PAPER OR PLASTIC? BOTH! Like you would never leave home without your driver's license, never be without business cards in your wallet. You never know where or when you might meet people. Don't have a job or want to use your work business cards? Make cards with your personal name and cell phone number. You can do so for free on many sites such as VistaPrint or Moo. Also, be sure to jot down notes on the back of the business cards from people you meet. Little random facts like what they were wearing, a conversation you had, their interests, those will be mental triggers and conversation starters for the future.
BE PATIENT AND PERSISTENT Relationships do not form overnight. They take time and history to develop and flourish. Plant lots of seeds, water them wisely, and eventually, you’ll see the fruits of your labor. Follow up as soon as possible so the freshness doesn't wear off. Follow them on Twitter. Connect with them on Linkedin. And, make sure you have action items or ask questions to keep the conversation going. Don’t loose hope and don’t expect everyone to respond right away, if at all. Do networking right, and you’ll be surprised of all the great things that may come of it.
If you're attending a networking event this weekend, we'd love to know how it went!