Networking is without a doubt one of the most important elements of any career. It plays a huge role in everything from your personal career development, to client and consultant relationships (to name a few). In reference to your career, networking may even be arguably the most important factor in advancement. With that said, here are a few tips for a positive networking experience:
If you are attending an event, research the organizations that will be there.
Know a little bit about where the attendees are coming from. The organizations of which they are a part are clearly important to them. Find out why, as they will more than likely be important to you as well. Showing you care about the organization will show you care about each attendee’s contribution to your industry.
Develop specific and general questions about your profession.
Brainstorming questions will help you get into the right frame of mind. It will also help prepare you to keep the conversation flowing.
With that said, ask a lot of questions!
Show your interest. Don’t expect anyone else to carry the conversation.
Ensure a balanced conversation.
Make sure to give others air time. People are more engaged when they are involved in the conversations so don’t embark on an endless monologue.
Don’t lose sight of your passions.
If you’re in a professional environment somehow related to your career, likely many of the people there will share similar passions. Talk about what you love and it’s very likely that you will get some excited participants in the conversation.
Represent your brand.
Visualize the kind of professional you want to be and be that person. There is a particular vibe you should be creating through your business cards, resume, portfolio, etc. Represent it!
Keep some business cards on hand.
Create some business cards and make sure to hand them out. Be strategic and introduce them once conversation is flowing. Make sure to get the cards of the people you’re talking to as well.
Don’t be over-eager.
You are in a process of developing yourself into a valuable professional. You are networking to determine what the profession has to offer you, just as much as what you have to offer the profession. Play it cool. Have some conversations first, get some contacts, follow up with them later. Don’t feel the need to seal the deal in the first five minutes. Remain confident and patient, not desperate.
Address people with respect and engage them as equals.
Yes, you’re amongst distinguished people with accomplished careers. However, don’t let this psyche you out! See them and speak to them as equals. This will help ensure you don’t come across as timid. Networking is partly about developing friendships, which are mutual relationships between equals.
Step outside of your comfort zone.
Avoid gravitating to people you know. Make sure to approach people you don’t know to gain new connections.
So, get out there, be yourself, and have fun. Look at networking as a long-term project that will likely get easier with time.
Feel free to leave questions or insights in the comments below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.