Networking is a great, and quite frankly, an essential way to develop connections that can help you throughout your career. While an important aspect of the professional world, the idea of networking makes some people want to escape to a deserted, remote island. What most people don’t realize is that you network every day, not just when you go to an event that has the word “networking” in the title. You network with the person who works out next to you at your gym, and even your friends’ parents.
When we are networking, we are communicating and connecting with others based on common interests and passions. And it can be fun while helping you on your professional journey. Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
Start early. It is never too early to start networking. The earlier you start gaining different connections (and confidence in doing so), the more diverse and extensive your connections will be as you further your career.
Keep track of all your connections. It’s smart to have a place where you can store the business cards of all the people you meet. It helps you keep track of everyone you have met and can motivate you to continue growing your network. I have two ways I like to keep track of my connections:
- A Rolodex that holds all the business cards I have received.
- A spreadsheet with all my connection’s information. I make sure to include information such as how we initially connected, their preferred method of contact, and when the last time I connected with them was.
Ask questions and listen to their response. This is a simple way to start a conversation while getting to know a person. Not sure what to ask? It’s good to ask open-ended questions about their career or personal interests. Questions such as, “How do you spend most of your time?” and “What’s the best part about your job?” are a few examples that can help you start up a good conversation. People love to talk about themselves (it is one of the topics they know best). Then, when it comes time to follow up, remember the conversations you had with them. This way, you can reference it when you see them next.
Be your(best)self! When you are authentic, you are more likely to create genuine connections. Make sure that when networking, you put your best foot forward. Trust me, I would love to go to a networking event in pajamas as much as the next person, but unless the theme of the networking event is a “P.J. party,” I suggest you check your closet for a better and more appropriate ensemble. If you dress for success, you will feel more confident and make a good first impression.
Don’t forget to follow up after initially meeting your new connection and be sure to use the communication platform that they prefer for an ensured response. The typical rule of thumb is to follow up within 48 hours after initially meeting. Make sure you have a meaningful follow-up message, so they won’t forget you. For example, if you discuss food, feel free to include that in your follow up and consider sending a link to your favorite recipe.
I hope these tips help you keep in touch with professional prospects or come in handy next time you’re stuck in an elevator with a group of strangers.