Networking is a great way to find a new job or a new client. Networking also has additional benefits such as improving your communication skills and making new friends. I personally love to network, but there are a lot of people who hate it. But it doesn’t have to be scary or stressful. Here is your ultimate guide to networking and tips to get ahead.
Networking can be so easy you won’t feel like you are networking at all.
- Introduce yourself. No matter the venue, introduce yourself to someone. I remember as soon as I moved to Richmond I walked up to a small group of women runners outside the gym and introduced myself. We quickly established two of the women lived in my neighborhood and our children attended the same elementary school. If you are feeling uneasy about attending an event solo, invite a colleague to go with you.
Ultimate tip to networking: Be yourself.
- Be present. If you are trying to network, put your cell phone away. You want to engage in your current conservation which is impossible with text messages and social media notifications blowing up your phone.
- Always carry business cards. Business cards have it all: Your name, title, company, phone number and email address. There are exceptions when you will not have a business card handy, but you can make a note in your phone for later.
- Take notes. If you get a business card from a new contact, write a few notes that may be helpful to remember later. For example, maybe you have kids the same age or a mutual friend.
- Reach out. Connect on LinkedIn and follow up with a short email. If there is a future business opportunity, suggest coffee or lunch. If there is not a current business opportunity, but good energy from this person, suggest coffee or lunch anyway. Networking today is so much more than a business lead or sale.
- Join groups. LinkedIn has a number of professional groups which is a good way to network virtually. Groups are constantly posting articles, surveys and industry updates to keep you in the loop. This tip is helpful for introverts. You can get the benefit of networking without having to mingle in person.
- Share expertise and insight. Helping others build quality relationships. For example, maybe you are using a new software that is creating efficiency or have a hiring process that is proven to put the right people in the right seats. People in your industry will remember you as an expert.
Be excited about networking. “It is a key driver behind higher salaries and career advancement.” -Business Insider.
- Volunteer. Volunteerism is good for your resume, but better for your heart. There are so many nonprofits that are desperate for help I could do an entire post on nonprofits. If your employer doesn’t engage in community service opportunities, it’s time to present a new idea. Your employer may match your charitable gift or act as a corporate sponsor. Volunteering will give you the opportunity to meet people outside your industry.
- Share personal stories. Sharing a story will make you more interesting and memorable. If you are in a competitive industry like sales, your story will be your unique differentiator. For instance, I started college at 26. It took seven years while working full time, but I graduated top of my class without $1 in student loans. All successful women have a a story.
- Have your elevator pitch ready. If there is a business opportunity where you can land a client, share what you do and what sets you apart from your competitors. Generic pitches will lose every time. For example, you can introduce yourself as a consultant. Or you can introduce yourself as a consultant who works with women who leave corporate America in pursuit of their dream job like writing a book or launching a catering business.
Like anything, networking gets easier with practice. Stay engaged and keep your LinkedIn profile current. Finally, check out MeetUp.com for networking events in your area.