We shared with you the benefits of networking for your brand (both business and personal), but how exactly does one network? Pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee and read on as we explain the ins and outs of creating a vast network. We’ll even throw in some helpful tips to make your networking experience a painless success.
Lesson 1: Begin with Friends
It may seem silly to think of your friends as a networking opportunity, but it’s an obvious and easy place to start growing your connections. Ask your friends to introduce you to their acquaintances, and once you’ve met, ask the acquaintances to introduce you to their acquaintances, and so on. Beginning with people you know gives you an “in” to start conversations with people you don’t know and provides practice so that approaching new people becomes natural and effortless.
Lesson 2: Take Advantage of Opportunities Offered by Alumni and Professional Associations
Believe it or not, there is more to those happy hours than free drinks and donation requests. Because nothing bonds people together quite like school pride, start with your college alumni association. Reach out to local alums and offer to grab a cup of coffee together. In many larger cities, alumni associations will occasionally host meetups or reunions. Instead of deleting those emails before reading beyond the subject line, try attending. You can meet some great people, reminisce about the good old days of undergrad, and maybe even learn a thing or two.
And don’t forget about professional associations. Many professions have association chapters that host get-togethers, seminars and yes, happy hours. Use these occasions as an opportunity to meet like-minded people who understand your career and challenges in the field. It’s a great way to find a mentor, learn about new opportunities and further connections.
Lesson 3: Social Media is Not Just for Selfies
What better way to easily connect with people than through the tool built for connecting people. More than just a place to house your favorite selfie, share a laughable meme or stay on top of the latest news, social media makes networking simple. Is there a businesswoman or entrepreneur you admire and would like to get to know? Draft your best message and press send. Try retweeting their helpful advice or like an article they share. Building relationships online is a great way to connect and expand your network with people across the world. But beware—there is a fine line between connecting and ‘creeping.’ If someone does not respond to a message, follow up once and then let it go. Sometimes they are too busy to respond, and other times they simply aren’t interested.
Lesson 4: Perfect the Elevator Speech
Your elevator speech is your one shot at catching someone’s attention and convincing them you are worth their time. It’s that golden moment between the first and fifth floor to grab the attention of the hiring manager at your dream company and secure an interview. It’s important to highlight your why and your how, and emphasize anything that makes you stand out from the others. Just remember to keep your pitch to 30 seconds or less.
Lesson 5: Tips and Tricks to Make You a Networking Pro
- Have a plan. Set some networking targets, such as a specific number of people to meet a month, and monitor the results. Keep track of who you meet, what they do and how you can help them.
- Find out how you can be useful. When you meet someone new, always ask how you can help them. Not only does this help you understand the person’s needs, but it keeps you in their mind. Finish every networking conversation with a business card and an offer to help.
- Always, always, always follow up. After each conversation and business card exchange, be sure to follow up. In today’s nonstop business world, taking two minutes to send an email or make a call can mean a lot and set you apart from others.