Thursday, April 14, 2011

New to Networking?

I have been meeting with co-workers joining professional organizations and students just entering the workforce and realized that networking doesn't come naturally to everyone (I take for granted that I network everywhere....seriously, everywhere all the time). Did you ever get in trouble in high school for talking in class? Well, you were "networking" and creating a personal brand. Now there are formal sessions for this without being rude to your teacher (sorry, Mrs. Schwartzwald, but I still don't use Algebra). Okay, okay, my point...take the pain out of it and have a little fun in the professional social scene. Maybe start at a small mixer to get some practice before moving on to a larger or higher profile venue. I assembled a few tips to use, my top 5 are listed below:

  1. Get LinkedIn - this is the Holy Grail of networking. Get signed up if not already. This allows people a frame of reference so they can find you and connect.

  2. Homework - I know, I know, but work with me here. Most events have a RSVP or sign up look up the contacts before the event. This will put faces to names and help you know who you should be targeting to speak to for opportunities (especially if you check out their profile on LinkedIn). You want to be efficient and make the best use of your time, right? Creating a "key connections" list will help you - think of it like a scavenger hunt (see? FUN!).

  3. Early bird catches the worm - show up early so you can "catch" your contact as they walk in and make your move.

  4. Have a list of helpful intros (little conversation starters). Make your friendly intro, then maybe start with something interesting or odd that recently happened to break the ice (natural "stories" are highly effective). I went to a networking event recently where the parking attendant ran out of the booth to my car to ask me to park in the dead center of the parking space...seriously, blew my mind - he said he wanted to ensure no cars got scratched. Oh yes, I used that as an ice breaker 10 minutes later.

  5. "80% of success is just showing up" (Woody Allen) - the people at networking events have the same goal you do....they want to meet people! So relax, grab a drink, take a deep breath and introduce yourself. Not all of your new contacts will lead to your ultimate success, but trust me, they are small steps to get you there.

1 comment:

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