Everyone knows the power of networking. Better job opportunities and expanding your professional circle of contacts are just two benefits of networking—but what if you don’t know how? Of course, you can do the ‘easy’ part—printing off business cards, joining a professional association and creating a LinkedIn account is a great way to start, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. NetWORKing takes WORK, but if you are ready to put in the effort then you will see results. Here are some tips on how to improve your networking skills:
- If networking makes you feel nervous, concentrate on others instead and forget about your insecurities. Work the room and focus on other people’s needs—is there anyone that you can introduce to each other? Is there a new face who may be eager to make new contacts? Identify potential opportunities and act on them—don’t wait for others to come to you.
- Expand your circle by getting out of your comfort zone. Going to a conference or networking event is pointless if you only interact with people you already know well. Barbara Gibson from the International Association of Business Communicators advises, “Make it your goal to meet at least ten people at every new event. You’ll get better every time you practice.”
- Have a hard time remembering names? Name-amnesia affects us all, but there is nothing worse than forgetting someone’s name—it doesn’t make a good impression and makes the other person feel devalued. Fix this by writing a few notes down after you meet someone, either in a small notebook or on the back of their business cards. Write down a few markers, such as “Brown hair with a beard, works in New York, went to the same university, wants to connect on LinkedIn.”
- After you’ve made your contacts, how do you keep in touch? Gibson recommends touching base every 6-12 months to keep the relationship going. Send an email or message on social media to ask how they are doing. Make your message even better by including a link to an article that might interest them, an invitation to a work-related function, or an important contact.
- Use social media effectively. No one wants to engage with someone who only sends one-way tweets or messages. Comment on other people’s posts, answer their questions and give your opinion on things that fall into your area of expertise. Others will appreciate your input and engage with you more.
- Use keywords on your blog, website and social media channels so people in your industry can find you. For example, someone that works in IT can take advantage of Twitter’s hash tag tool by using it in his or her bio. For example: “John Mathers. Lives in New York, works in #IT #management, loves to cycle.” His profile will be available to everyone who searches for the keywords ‘IT’ and ‘management’.
- Don’t use networking events as a sales opportunity. Don’t push your services on a new contact at the event or in your follow up communications unless it was specifically requested by your new contact.
Key phrases for networking
I enjoyed meeting you at the conference last week.
I’d like to introduce you to one of my key contacts.
Do you have a business card with you?
I’d love to follow up with you and discuss this further.
Where are you based?
How long have you been in this industry?
Are you enjoying the conference so far?
What social media channels are you on? It would be great to connect.
I arrived at the event late—did I miss anything exciting?
I’d like you to meet my colleague—she also works as an IT manager and knows of some great professional groups to join.