(Updated January 2021)
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’ve suggested), 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:
- Where to network? IABC, CPRS or other professional associations pertinent to your industry are great places to start.
- Go to networking events 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 that can lead to a relationship.
- Spend more time asking people what they do than telling them about what you do.
- Bring a business card. Don’t laugh, but you’d be surprised how many people think it’s unnecessary or forget to bring a card to a networking event. Don’t assume others are ready to add you to their cellphone contacts right away. Also, batteries lose power at the worst times.
- Make up for a lack of a formal 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. That’s IF you’ve been able to explain your strengths and have established a rapport.
- Don’t blanket the room with your card. Wait to hand it over until you’ve found something in common and a reason to exchange information with your new contact. 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.
- If you promise to forward an article or other information, do so within 24 hours. Add a reminder to your phone or write on the back of the person’s card.
- Ask if it’s okay to connect on LinkedIn, and send a request when you get home. Include a reminder of where you met.
How about you? What are your tried-and-true tactics to make the most of networking events?