How to Network Like a Pro
Mastering the art of networking is a necessary key to success. Getting face-to-face time with other professionals, whether they are in your industry or not can be beneficial to your professional life in sometimes unexpected ways. It can be a great means to get different perspectives on ideas and create relationships that are mutually beneficial in the present or future.
Networking may be a daunting task at times, but practice these fundamental tips to help you nail it!
It is imperative to always be prepared, because you never know when a networking opportunity may come along. Unless you are attending a networking event with a set date and time, oftentimes the best networking connections you can make are unplanned!
Keep your resume updated and save a copy on your phone or computer, practice your elevator pitch so many times you could do it in your sleep and always have business cards with you. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed you will be as you focus on the most important part or networking– creating a personal relationship.
Do your homework
If you are going to a specific networking or recruiting event with a public guest list, make sure you research some of the companies you are hoping to speak with. You don’t need to be an expert – they are already familiar with their own job and coming off as a know-it-all is an unfortunate way to alienate yourself. However, recognizing something small and specific about a company in a conversation with a potential connection can be the difference between them remembering you as a knowledgeable industry professional or forgetting your name when you walk away.
At a networking event where it can seem like everyone is just there to push their skills and experience on anyone who might be hiring, position yourself as a breath of fresh air who is being genuine instead of just fishing for a job. You may feel pressured to put on a show, but having a real conversation and being your true self is the best form of self-promotion!
Make personal connections
You can always find some common ground between you and the person you are networking with. Your favorite restaurant could be right in their neighborhood, their sister might have the same alma mater as you or you both might have a shared love for the same podcast! Many networking event conversations follow the same script, so make your conversation stand out by discovering a mutual interest – and bonus points if you reference it in your follow-up email the next day.
Hold a mutually inclusive conversation
Being prepared with general questions that will help you start a conversation with anyone you may meet will open up many doors for you in the networking world. Continue to build on the conversation with more specific questions based on their previous answers to show that you are an attentive listener. However, don’t let the conversation turn into a one-sided Q&A because they are also there to network and will probably have questions for you. You may even be the one who refers them to their next lead!
Listen to the experts, you might learn something
We all know that people love to talk about themselves, so let them talk! If you’re speaking to someone whose position will be more beneficial to you than the other way around, ask them specific questions about their career that show you are genuinely interested in learning from their experience. Effortlessly holding a conversation rather than pitching yourself to a person in power will leave them with a much better impression of your competence in a professional setting.
Know when to walk away
Try to keep your conversations with a single person short and sweet, particularly at an event where there are lots of people to meet. Taking up too much of someone’s time can sometimes leave just as bad of an impression on someone as not holding up a conversation at all. While there’s no “perfect” conversation length, pay attention to body language or cues that the person you have been talking to is ready to move on.
If you’re the one who feels the conversation has run its course, there are many tactics to politely end the interaction. Introduce your partner to someone you may have been speaking with earlier to start a conversation between them, or excuse yourself to chat with someone across the room you’ve been wanting to catch up with. And don’t forget to exchange contact information and let them know it was nice to make the connection!
It only takes about 48 hours for both parties to forget the specifics of a conversation after meeting someone new– especially if you’ve both been networking with a lot of people. This is why it is imperative to send a follow-up email. Try to include some specific details from your conversation to refresh their memory, and thank them again for their time and for making the connection. Whether you save their information for a later date or you make plans to meet right away, following up is the best way to get yourself back in front of someone who could have such an impact on your future!
Networking happens all the time, but follow these tips and we know you’ll be ready whenever the opportunity presents itself. You’ll be surprised to see how often making genuine connections with people can lead to great success in your career!