Friday, August 30, 2013 • 9:47pm
Networking efficiently and effectively is a key skill that every professional individual should learn how to do. Unfortunately, this isn’t a skill that is typically taught in college or even in the business environment. Some people seem to just “get it” and can shine in a room of 100 or even 1000 people. The truth is, many of these networking geniuses don’t have any more natural ability to network than anyone else. They simply learned networking necessities and put them into practice.
Below is a list of the 10 networking necessities that everyone should implement:
1 – Google yourself. I put this as number 1 on the list for a reason – almost everyone you meet these days will in some form research you online, especially if you’re offering a good or service for sale. You want to make sure that everything potential clients read about you online is a) business-friendly and b) paints you in a positive light. Be sure to scrub anything you don’t want potential contacts or clients reading about you on the internet. The best rule of thumb to follow – if you wouldn’t want your mother or father reading it, you wouldn’t want your network reading it either.
2 – Understand why you want to network. When I ask people, “Why is it that you want to attend a networking event?” I often receive blank stares or an answer along the lines of “Well, everyone should network, right?” If you are in a sales position and your income is dependent on bringing in leads or closing deals, then you want to network to meet people who are in charge of purchasing decisions. If you are job hunting and you’re a financial professional, then you want to meet people in the financial industry who are either in charge of hiring or who are well-connected. If you are a recruiter and are looking for highly-qualified technical professionals to join your organization, you want to network to meet these candidates. The bottom line here is to understand WHY you want to network so that you can attend targeted events or reach out to individuals via social media sites who are the right people, not just what I call “network fillers.”
3 – Organize your network and identify gaps. Once you understand why you should be networking, you need to go through your list of contacts and see who is currently in your network and who is not. You may already have a list of individuals who you would like to connect with – that’s great! Most people, however, realize after this step that they mainly have family, friends, and old college acquaintances in their professional networks. Granted, these connections may be well-connected but most likely they’re in your contacts list on LinkedIn because they were easy to come by. If you’re job hunting, you should begin identifying the organizations you’d like to work for and finding out the names of recruiters or HR professionals at those companies. If you’re looking for sales leads, identify you’re A, B, and C target organizations and identify individuals who are in charge of purchasing and begin the introduction process.
4 – Identify networking event opportunities. Now that you know why you’re networking and who you need to target, you can identify the events you need to attend to meet key people. There are many ways to do this but your best bets are 1) finding professional organizations in your industry and browsing their event websites, 2) become a member of your local or state Chamber of Commerce, 3) use http://www.bing.com/events to search for networking events in your area (make sure you use the keyword “networking” and change your location). Be aware that most networking events charge a fee to attend, anywhere in the range of $20-$200. Some are free and many charge hundreds of dollars. It’s up to you to determine how best to spend your networking dollars.
5 – Dress for success and bring your business cards. I know this is common knowledge but you’d be surprised how many people I see dressed in jeans and a t-shirt at formal business networking events. Also, don’t forget your business cards. And make sure if you use a website like www.vistaprint.com you don’t get the free cards that have advertising on the back. Nothing says cheap like Vistaprint advertising on the back of your business cards. It’s fine for personal use, but not for professional occasions.
6 – Smile, make eye contact, and have a good handshake. Again, this may be common knowledge but a sincere smile, eye contact, and a solid handshake can make or break your chances of connecting with someone important. There is nothing worse than a confident looking individual with a weak handshake. Ask for candid feedback about your handshake from colleagues or family members. If you’re a woman, don’t be afraid to be firm with your grip. And men, please don’t overdo it – a solid grasp works; there is no need for a vice grip.
7 – Keep your introduction to 60 seconds. Some of my most memorable encounters with people I’ve connected with happened because they were able to tell me about themselves in less than 60 seconds. This is often the hardest part of networking and one of the most important. The three things you need to remember here are 1) who are you/what do you do, 2) why are you unique, and 3) why should I ultimately listen to you/what value are you offering me. I appreciate when people can concisely introduce who they are, why they’re not like everyone else, and what value or purpose they serve. The truth is, at networking events I remember the people who stand out both for positive and negative reasons.
8 – Ask lots of questions and put the focus on the other person. One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they feel they need to tell the person with whom they’re talking every little detail about themselves. Big. Mistake. People love talking about themselves and their companies so make sure after you introduce yourself you immediately begin asking the other person about themselves, they work they do, what they’re passionate about professionally, etc. That person will walk away feeling important because you put the emphasis on THEM not on yourself.
9 – Write notes on the cards you are handed. Don’t forget to bring a pen with you to the event so when you meet someone and they give you their card you can jot a few notes down that will jog your memory later like “woman with red sweater, talked about her 2 sons” or “man from CA who personally knows head of HR at XYZ Co.” That way, when you go to do Tip # 10, you are prepared.
10 – Follow up in a timely manner, which means 3 days or less. One of the best things you can do right after an event is to go through all of the cards you collected and make two piles – the first pile are immediate follow-ups and the second pile is for people who would be good to connect with on LinkedIn or via email but don’t necessarily need a phone call. Your first pile contacts should receive a LinkedIn invite to connect or an email saying hello and nice to meet you yesterday. These contacts should also receive a phone call a day or two later. Don’t be afraid to call and leave a message – hearing your voice often helps people remember who you are! Especially if that person spoke with a lot of people at the event.
Bonus tip – 11 – Send periodic emails every few months. One of the best tips I ever received from a mentor of mine is to set calendar reminders to connect with high-level contacts in my network. It takes less than a minute to set up a recurring calendar reminder. Don’t forget to include the contact person’s name, email, phone number, where you met them, and any other information you believe is important. That way, when November 13th, 2013 rolls around and “Email Sally Jones” pops up as a reminder, you’ll remember who they are and why you should email them.
Amanda Veinott, a Certified Professional Coach and life-long resident of South Plainfield, is an expert in personal and professional development. Amanda is a Consultant with global management firm, Sirota Consulting. At Sirota, Amanda is responsible for helping organizations identify where their strategy, their culture, and their human resources are misaligned so that critical issues are addressed and organizational effectiveness and success are achieved. Amanda is passionate about personal development topics such as job hunting, career transitions, resume writing, college and grad school searches, and leadership training. Amanda graduated from SPHS in 2006, attained her B.S. in Organizational Psychology from Christopher Newport University in 2010, and is currently pursuing her MBA from Centenary College.
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