Understanding how to properly network with others is crucial to expand your connections and create a system of valuable contacts. But the idea of standing around talking to others about yourself can seem overwhelming.
Check out our six tips below on how you should actually approach networking, and what you can do to make the most of it.
Build Relationships – Not Just Contacts
While networking properly can be extremely valuable for your career, focusing on what you can get out of a conversation will make the process feel forced and unnatural. Instead, start each conversation by asking others about themselves, and take genuine interest in their responses. Keep in mind that networking isn’t simply about collecting contacts, but about building relationships that can benefit both parties.
Go Beyond Networking Events
If you only network during networking events, you could be missing out on many opportunities to meet new people in your industry. Expand your network by signing up for conferences and workshops in your field, going out for lunch with people in different organizations and attending alumni mixers at your alma mater. Another easy way to find new connections? Volunteer to be a speaker at a class or seminar. People will usually come up to introduce themselves after you’ve spoken.
Quality Over Quantity
While you should work the room during networking events, don’t feel pressured to meet every single person in attendance. Focus on building genuine connections with several people rather than having superficial encounters with everyone. When you are ready to exit a conversation, do so gracefully and by maintaining eye contact so it won’t look like you’re in a rush to move on.
Meeting a lot of different people during one event can be overwhelming. To avoid blurring all the names and information of the people you meet, take notes about each person as soon as the event has ended. Jot down topics you discussed, things you have in common and when you might meet up in the future on the back of people’s business cards as a simple way to refresh your memory.
Diversify Your Contacts
A great business network shouldn’t only include people from your organization and career level, but also people from other industries and ahead or behind you in their trajectory. Be open to meet people who you may not seem to have much in common with. You never know when your paths could cross again, or if they could connect you with someone else.
Use Social Media
A simple way to keep the conversation going once a networking event has ended is to use social media to connect with the people you met. Tag others in your event-related posts and engage with their social media accounts. While official inquiries should be sent through email, social media can be a great tool to stay on people’s radar. Just make sure your social media profiles are work appropriate! (For tips on how to clean up your social media presence, check out our list of 9 Ways Not to Embarrass Yourself Online.)
By Priscilla Aceves