Learning how to network effectively is one of the most powerful tools you can use to advance your career. You’re probably doing this right now, but make the most of your time by choosing the right events where you can be visible to leaders in your industry.
What does good networking boil down to? For starters: building trustworthy relationships and actively managing them. So use these tips to get out there and make the right choices!
Be picky: There will be stellar networking opportunities and there will be ones that aren’t worth your time. You’ll quickly figure out which ones are the most beneficial and which ones aren’t. As a general rule, stick to occasions that are making the most buzz and attracting the best people in your field.
Stay Natural: Nothing is worse that meeting someone who is pure plastic. You know the type – a person you can see right through, who is obviously only there to get something they need. Avoid being “stiff” even if you’re nervous. Keep your conversation style natural, warm and inviting. This will attract people to you, and they’ll remember you as a genuine person.
Practice Makes Perfect: Even if you’re shy, you can still put yourself forward. Some find networking uncomfortable because they assume people are in cliques and feel pushy trying to edge themselves in. But those people in the “inner circle” need to meet new contacts, too. The more you introduce yourself to people and show passion for what you do, the easier it will become.
Build Relationships:Make sure to follow up soon after you’ve met someone that you really like. Call or email her and suggest coffee or lunch sometime soon. Let her know you’ve come across some interesting information that might be of interest to her. If she declines your invite, don’t give up. Try back in a few weeks.
Value Diverse Contacts: When meeting people, make sure you include a wide range of professionals in different industries and positions of varying levels. Just because you don’t work in human resources doesn’t mean that it won’t be beneficial for you to know the VP of Human Resources of a certain company.
Don’t Be Pushy: This is a big one. Don’t ever ask for something of someone you’ve just met. Develop a relationship first, then figure out how you can collaborate and work together. This process should feel natural, not needy.
Give Back: Don’t forget that networking is a two-way street. Think about ways you could help your key connections, even if it’s providing a simple introduction. Not only will you feel good about supporting a colleague, but it will help you down the road when you ask for something from them.
Ongoing Maintenance:Over time, it’s inevitable that you’ll lose track of some good contacts. Keep an ongoing list of people that you’ve enjoyed meeting in your career and try to rekindle these relationships. Even sending a birthday card will provide a perfect platform for you to follow up a few weeks later!
How to choose the best networking events:
- Read the daily newspapers and industry newsletters to find out which events are generating the most buzz.
- Before signing up, ask to see a copy of the invite list. If it looks like high-level leaders will be included, make sure you’re there too!
- Find out which events your boss and other colleagues on the fast track are slated to attend.
- Call the event spokesperson and ask if there are opportunities to mix with top leaders. Find out how accessible people who are there will be to you.