The thought of handing out business cards or calling up contacts and former colleagues makes many people inwardly cringe. But networking doesn’t have to be painful.
Here are our top 10 tips to take the cringe away and become a networking pro:
- Know that you’re not asking for a favour, you’re exchanging good info and tips: We all have info, tips, knowledge, skills that others may find useful. Networking is not a one-way street. Everyone recognizes the person they may help today, could help them or their kids or friends tomorrow.
- Stay current in your field: It’s worth investing time in reading up on your field and learning about trends and changes, so you have interesting info to share. This will increase the quality of your conversation and make a great impression.
- Know what you want: Sure, you want someone to recommend you for a job, but not everyone has one of those to offer. So ask yourself, what else do you want to get out of this exchange that would be positive for both parties. You could think about asking for leads about which companies are doing well, or which events may be worthwhile for you to attend, or get inside info on what are the biggest headaches in your field that need to be solved.
- Your meeting will only be as good as your questions: People usually don’t volunteer info because they just didn’t think of it. In a networking situation, the onus is not on your contact to come up with something interesting for you, it’s on you to ask questions.
- If people tell you things are tough at their work, ask if there’s a way to help: You meet with a former colleague and they spend your time together telling you about how terrible things are where they work. When that happens, ask what would make their work-life better or their boss happier? Is there anything you could do, even on a temporary or contract basis, to help? For instance, would they like to see an increase in sales, IT support, marketing efforts, etc.
- Make life easy for your contact: Most people talk to a contact about what they’ve done and could do, but they don’t sum up their key points to make it easy for their contacts to pass these on to someone else.
- At the end of the exchange, reiterate your elevator pitch: Make sure when you wrap up the conversation, your contact knows what you’re good at and what you want. For example, “Thanks for chatting, and if you hear of any opportunity for a sales manager with a track record of doubling business in new markets, please pass on my name.”
- Follow-up with a short email that says it all: People are busy, distracted, so you can’t count on contacts to follow-up on an agreed-upon action without you making it entirely effortless for them. Write a short thank-you email that includes your elevator pitch and the action the contact agreed to do (For example, “Thanks for setting up an email introduction with xxx, I appreciate you letting them know that I’m an expert at ……with a solid track record of ….”).
- Don’t be modest: People want to refer the best. Position yourself as successful because people will not pass on your name if they aren’t sure that you are great at what you do.
- Step outside your circle: If there’s a workshop on professional development that interests you or an event that you’d like to attend for fun, go for it. People make contacts in all kinds of places, and with every outing, you’re expanding your network.
Now get out there and network! And check out our job postings and see where your talent can take you.