Networking is critical to any line of work. It can be useful to get your or your company’s name out there, to drum up business, or to form long lasting connections with good people. Many think it is easy, but networking can be entirely fruitless if you are not doing it right.
Here are some tips to make the most of your networking opportunities:
- Identify opportunities or events where you will be the only one, or one of the only ones, in your field. This gives you the unique opportunity to meet lots of people, who may not have someone like you in their Rolodex.
- Look for strategic introductions, not just business referrals. While someone may not have business to refer at that moment, they may have a wide network of individuals that could be helpful to you. Instead of asking for business, asking to meet their friends and colleagues will go a long way to building long term connections.
- Think of ways you can help others. Instead of telling someone what you are looking for, ask them who they are looking for. Find out how you can help them or who you can connect them to. People are much more likely to send business your way when they know you will return the favor.
- Have more than just an elevator speech. Think about ways to differentiate yourself, and avoid sounding like you are giving a rehearsed commercial. More importantly, make a personal connection before you try to pitch your business.
- Look for things you have in common; ask about their business, hobbies, kids. A personal connection is more likely to lead to a long term relationship that will benefit you and your new acquaintance for years to come.
- Be authentically interested in what people have to say. If you are just handing out business cards and “working the room,” your cards will end up in the trash and your networking time will have been a waste.
- Be a good listener and be sincere. Remember that at the core of networking is the idea of human interaction. People will remember the way that you made them feel more than whatever you were trying to sell.
When you are out and about on the networking scene, be sure to keep these tips in mind. Networking is serious business. After all, your job may depend on it.