You have seconds to make a great first impression. Make the most of your networking opportunities by being planned and purposeful. Here are 8 tips to help you master the art of building professional connections.
1. Prepare Yourself
Whether for career advancement or job searching, networking is an opportunity to learn, gain insights and build relations. Before you head off to your next conference or networking event, set a specific goal, such as creating two new meaningful connections. Then, play to your strengths. For example, if you’re a morning person, plan to go to the networking meeting as early as possible. If you’re a card-carrying introvert, plan for short breaks to recharge. You can also talk to a career coach beforehand to develop a strategy to maximize your strengths while networking.
2. Know How to Introduce Yourself
Don’t just wait for someone to come up to you and introduce themselves. Take the lead and approach others. You’ll need to be able to present yourself concisely and positively. When asked: What do you do?, come prepared with an elevator pitch that describes who are you and what do you do. Spice up your introduction by also talking about what exciting projects or initiatives you are working on. Avoid industry lingo unless the person you are networking with is knowledgeable about your area of expertise.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Before the event, create a list of questions to call on when you’re meeting and connecting with people. As you’re composing your list, remember that yes-or-no questions are conversation-stoppers. Choose open-ended questions instead to get your conversations started.
You only need a couple of questions handy to get the ball rolling, such as:
- What brings you out to this event?
- What’s new and exciting in your industry?
- What interesting projects are you working on?
4. Seek Insights
A great direct benefit of going to a networking event can be the industry and sector insights you gain from people you meet. Ask for their opinions about issues in your industry or business in general. Find out about the latest innovations in their field. Listen to their stories to see what challenges they are facing and how they are overcoming these.
5. Focus on Giving
Set aside your hopes of getting something from the people you meet. Instead, focus on what you can give to them. Remember that your goal is to build positive, long-term relationships. The best way to do that is to offer insights, resources, and even help to make their work and life easier. Giving can also include giving them attention by listening closely to what they say and asking questions about it.
6. Be Interested
Don’t just ask questions because you think it’s the right thing to do. Instead, actually be interested in what the other person is talking about. This keeps you deeply engaged with the conversation that’s happening in the moment. In the long term, it naturally helps you build your network with real relationships that last beyond a momentary conversation.
7. Talk about Your Passions
When you talk about the things you’re passionate about, your face lights up and you engage on a deeper level. Your enthusiasm sparks conversations more easily than hours of poring over networking how-to books. People are interested because you are excited about what you are doing, and this draws them into the conversation.
It can’t be said enough: smile often during every networking event. Your body language shows the other person at a glance whether you are approachable and interested. Lean in to show your interest. Make good eye contact to show your openness to what they have to say. Stand or sit tall to show your self-confidence. But most of all, smile.
Need help developing your networking skills? Contact us! We’ll help you access networking tips and strategies to build strong relationships that can help advance your career.
Wishing you much career success!
Joanne Loberg Certified Executive Coach & Internationally Certified Career Management Professional
JL Careers Inc