Networking: the necessary but sometimes awkward objective that forces us all to learn how to properly shake hands and smile. Some people feel naturally comfortable networking, but for many, it can be a new venture that needs to be learned. However, it doesn’t have to be such a struggle if you keep these tips in your back pocket and pull them out along with your business card.
The Pressure’s Off
When you are attending a networking event, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be the master networker. Lowering your expectations can help make the connections you make more natural because you’ll be more relaxed. Plus, in the long run, these will probably be the connections that come in handy down the road.
Be Professional & Polite
Make sure that your impressions with new contacts are professional and polite. First impressions are the biggest impressions, so make sure that people remember you as someone they enjoyed meeting. Professionalism is a must if you want to be taken seriously by the individuals you have the opportunity to network with. Also, when you are meeting someone new that you hope to build into your network, listen more than you talk. Ask open-ended and insightful questions. Not only will this help the other person to connect with you, but it will also help you look at the different areas and contacts that this person may have influence with.
If you haven’t developed your elevator pitch, now is the time to do it. An elevator pitch is a 30-second summary of yourself, your career and your goals that you could easily deliver if you suddenly found yourself in an elevator with your dream employer. Practice giving your elevator pitch over and over until you can do it on command with ease, poise, and purpose. This will come in handy to show that you value people’s time and attention.
This is a great way to take the “work” out of networking. Forget business casual networking events, network from the comfort house in your sweatpants with sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Optimize your social accounts for this by updating job information and having appropriate certifications displayed. Make connections on these sites that make sense with people who can grow your circle of influence.
Follow up. After you have made a connection with someone new, follow up with your contact information and remind them of something you talked about in your initial meeting. This will make you available for future communications and make an impression that sticks.
These are our tips for making networking something you can do naturally and without too much stress. Most importantly when it comes to networking, just be yourself and be genuine. This is how you will make connections that are helpful and lasting.
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