Ready…Set…Network!

Created On: 27 July, 2016 Created By: Amber Travis-Ballinas, Career Coach

*This is the fifth in a series of posts discussing the concept of networking.

It’s OKAY to talk to strangers. If you want to build your network, you must talk to other people that you don’t already know. Talk to everyone you can, whenever you can. Of course, you do not want to seem like a psycho stalker or turn people off, so keep the conversation appropriate to the social situation and venue.

·       If you are at the market, make small talk with the checker or the person in line behind you.

·       If you are attending a networking event, greet contacts on the way in to the event, at the sign-in table, at the buffet, at the bar, and on the way out to your car.

 

Focus on quality not quantity. Spend your time developing a few quality contacts from each networking opportunity. The goal is to make sincere connections and develop mutually beneficial relationships.

·       If you attend a networking event, try to make three to five new quality contacts, rather than just collecting twenty business cards.

·       If you are at a social gathering, stay focused on the person with whom your are conversing, look them in the eye, ask questions, and really listen to what they are saying.

 

Politely greet those contacts that you already know.Chat politely for a few minutes, and then ask your contact to introduce you to someone that you do not know. Offer to return the favor.

 

Keep your right hand free. In the USA, it is customary to greet others with a firm handshake using your right hand. So, you always want to have your right hand free. Hold your drink or plate, bag or book, or anything else you have with you in your left hand, so that you can quickly shake hands and give your new contacts your business card or other information without fumbling.

 

Stay organized. Often, networking happens quickly. To make the most of each opportunity, you must be able to act fast. Staying organized allows you to react quickly and maintain a professional image.

·       Have a bag, briefcase, or organizer book containing your ‘networking toolkit’ with you at all times, so that you can easily share your contact information and have a secure place to store the information of new contacts until you can follow up.

·       Keep your business cards in your right jacket or pant pocket and place the business cards of contacts you meet into your left pocket. This way you will not mix them up and accidentally hand a new contact someone else’s business card. Embarrassing!

 

Write something personal on your business card. People are more likely to remember you, the conversation you had, and much less likely to toss the card if you include a personal, hand-written comment or phone number on the card.

·       Take a moment to jot down your cell phone number or a note about a topic you discussed with the contact prior to handing them your card. This shows that you really were listening to them and that you want to develop the relationship further. 

 

Take notes, so you can follow up.  After you have made a new contact and received their business card, take a moment to write a quick note about where you met them, something you learned about the contact, how you can help them, or how you will follow up.

·       Record the information directly on the card or in your ‘networking toolkit’ tracking tool. Then, when you do follow up with the contact, you will be able to remind them about where you met and what you discussed during that meeting.

 

Always follow through. Keep your promises. When you meet a new contact, it is critical to demonstrate that you are reliable and credible. You must follow through and actually do what you said that you would do in a timely manner. This single act will set you apart from 80% of the population, because so many people talk big but do not follow through. Following through and keeping your promises will create a situation where the contact feels that they must reciprocate, and isn’t that the real goal of networking?

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