How To Make Networking Work For You

The following is an edited version of an article I was asked to write a a while back, for Nova Scotia Business Journal.    As I re-read it, I realized everything I wrote then is still applicable today.

What is networking? Networking is relationship building.  It’s the art of engaging in conversations about topics that are of interest and relevant to you.

Networking is the original ‘social networking’ and it’s misunderstood.  Why? Because many folks set unrealistic targets and expectations.  It’s amazing what a bit of savvy networking can yield if you prepare ahead of time and have a strategy in place.

These tips are written for someone who is about to attend a “networking event”.  I’ll post a follow-up article about individual networking.  But this is for folks heading to a conference, an awards reception, or anywhere that there will be a gathering of people you’d like to engage in conversations with:

Before :

  • Write your ‘elevator pitch’. What are your skills, experience and interests?  Don’t memorize it, just get comfortable talking about yourself to others.
  • Set a realistic goal for how many conversations you intend to have at the event.
  • If possible, know who you want to meet ahead of time. Do some research. Facilitate an introduction from someone you already know.
  • Get good at asking questions. Some of your most interesting conversations start there.

During:

  • Scan the room, target someone who looks interesting or whom you’d like to meet and introduce yourself.
  • Hand someone your business card after an interesting conversation has transpired, not beforehand.
  • Be generous with your own knowledge. The more you give the more you’ll get.
  • Be an excellent listener.

And After:

  • Make note of the names/business cards you’ve received.
  • Follow up with those people you’d like to stay in touch with perhaps by sending them an article about a topic you two discussed. Suggest that you two get together in the near future for a follow up chat.

In-person networking continues to be an essential part of career development.

Set realistic expectations, do some prep work and yes, be sure to offer an awesome handshake!

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