Whether you run your own independent business or work in a corporate setting, you need to get out and network.
Like having a profile on LinkedIn (as I suggested the other day), networking gives you another way of building your connections. And in the same way you always want to have a resume updated to include your current accomplishments, you want to build a network of connections before you have to look for a new job or replace a lost client.
Here are some tips to help you shine:
- Bring a business card. Don’t laugh, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to bring a card to a networking event.
- Make up for a lack of business card when you’re job hunting by creating a quick, inexpensive print card that has your name, phone number, email address and URL to your LinkedIn profile. Explain its plain look by saying that you’re looking for work, and be specific about what kind.
- Don’t ask for a job, though. There’s no reason for strangers to pass your name along, although they may be kind enough to say if they know XYZ Company has an opening that would be a perfect fit.
- Don’t blanket the room with your card. Wait until you’ve found something in common with someone and a reason to exchange cards. Networking is all about establishing a connection, not overtly selling yourself.
- Wear something with pockets. Keep your own business cards in the left pocket, say, and put cards you collect in the right pocket.
- Go in with a plan to meet new people, not gain immediate new business. The eventual result might turn out to be new business, but the immediate goal should be to establish a connection and then a relationship.
- Spend more time asking people what they do than telling them about what you do.
- Make a note of any promised follow-up on the back of the person’s card. Follow up within 24 hours.
- Before you file the card, check if the person is on LinkedIn. Send a request to connect there, including a reminder of where you met.
- Where to network? IABC, CPRS or other professional associations pertinent to your industry are great places to start.
How about you? Do you like networking? What are your tried-and-true tactics to make the most of networking events?