To most, networking is a group of professionals talking about their businesses and finding connections.
To a degree that may be true.
Except, networking is much more than that. It’s connecting with people authentically. It’s meeting with interesting people and sharing with them who you are.
At any stage of your career, networking can open doors.
When meeting new people, one can receive free advice. Advice that may be related to personal issues or business related. Networking may result in word-of-mouth referrals and if done correctly, one can gain credibility, trust, and knowledge.
To help you excel at networking, below are a few suggestions.
Do’s of Networking
Take initiative – More than likely, everyone is feeling nervous or out of place.
Don’t be afraid to say hello. Sit with people you don’t know. You won’t benefit from doing nothing.
Seek to help others – Listen and learn from other people’s experiences. When you help others, they are likely to reciprocate and help you in return.
Business Cards – The easiest way to connect with others is to share information. Make sure you come with more than enough. When you receive a card from someone else, write down where you met them to help you remember in case you want to stay connected.
Follow up – Why meet new people if you don’t plan on reconnecting afterwards. Maintain relationships with the people you meet. Check in with them on occasion. In result, the connection will grow stronger and both parties will benefit from having someone to confide in or ask advice from.
Summary - practice an elevator pitch that describes what you. If you have a chance, drop it in the conversation, share it and move on. Don’t expand on what you do, unless people ask questions.
Prepare questions - Know who will be attending the event and think ahead of time the questions you want to ask them. Be attentive. Asking questions allows you to get a sense for who someone is.
Don’ts of Networking
Don’t ask questions that a Google search could answer – Be mindful of the type of questions you ask. Generic questions may appear that you are uninterested.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – Other people in the conversation might not know either. Expand your knowledge and learn from others.
Don’t have one conversation – Speak to multiple people. See how many people share a common interest with you. Make a game out of it. It’ll require that you meet more people.
Don’t push your agenda – If you speak primarily about yourself or your business, you will only be known for all the wrong things.
Don’t forget to leave a good impression – That includes your appearance. Be mindful of what you’re wearing and how you talk. Afterall, you want to be invited back.
Don’t attend an event with the primary mission and goal of networking.
Instead, enjoy the moment.
These connections are not made over night. But the more of them that you have in your directory, the easier you are to receive support – you can pay It forward down the road.
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