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Ugh…networking. Amirite? To a lot of people, networking can feel like a dirty word. The impersonal schmoozing, the awkward small talk, the self-promotion…it all feels so forced and unnatural. But what if networking wasn’t about selling? What if was about creating real connections and mutually beneficial relationships with people who actually interested you? That wouldn’t be half bad, right? Well you’re in luck – that’s the kind of networking we believe in, and that’s what this guide is about!
Be yourself. Don’t force any phony baloney stuff and try to genuinely enjoy yourself. The more authentic you are, the more painless this process will be for you and everyone else.
Be approachable. You don’t have to walk up to complete strangers if that makes you uncomfortable, but you can’t sit alone and stare at your phone, either. Look around the room, smile, keep your body language open, and make eye contact with people, and they’ll feel comfortable walking up to you.
Get social on social. Networking doesn’t have to happen at in-person events. Maximize your presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – whatever platforms you feel most comfortable using. Start conversations with people and brands you admire. Engage, contribute to conversations, and share stuff that will make people think, “daaaang they’re interesting and informed.”
Practice your pitch. Even though networking isn’t about selling, you should be able to confidently share what your company does and what problems it solves in a quick 15 – 30 second snippet.
Do your homework. See if you can find a list of attendees before an event and do some online research to find out which people you’re most interested in knowing more about.
Ask questions. One of the biggest keys to networking is to listen. Learn about what other people are working on, what they like to do outside of work, and what their future goals are.
Keep your network organized. Take all of those new business cards you’ve been collecting and put them into some sort of tracking system to help you stay on top of who’s in your network, where they work, and what they do.
Follow up. This is where the amateurs are separated from the professionals. Good networkers follow up the day after an event by connecting on LinkedIn and sending an email or handwritten note with a thoughtful message.
Be a connector. As you build your network, try to find opportunities to help those within your contacts benefit from one another’s specialties. Whenever you can, offer something without receiving anything. This will put you in the trustworthy and helpful category – a good list to be on.
Re-connect regularly. Like with every relationship, you’ve got to put in the work to maintain it. Set weekly calendar reminders to reach out to people you haven’t connected with in over 6 months. Invite them to coffee, forward an article you think they’d enjoy, or simply send them an email and ask if they’ve read or listened to anything interesting lately. Letting people know you’re thinking of them strengthens your connection and inspires them to think about you, too.