7 Tips To Enjoy Networking And Make The Most Out Of It
How many times have you heard "networking is important to advance in your career and business"? I bet you heard it countless of times, and there's a reason for it: it's true. Many jobs are not advertised on job boards and more often than not prospective clients ask their family and friends for recommendations on products and services before searching online.
However, not everyone is a networking enthusiast or knows how to do it. Not everyone sees it as a long term investment or realises networking can happen at any given time you're interacting with other people, whether it's at a conference, your local meet-up, a company meeting or a party with new friends.
I've thought about the things I've learned (and still learning!) about networking throughout the years, especially since starting my business, and I've summarised them in 7 tips that I believe will help you enjoy networking and make the most out of it.
On this article, I'm only focusing on networking in person, though some of these tips can apply to online networking as well.
1. Choose the right event
Choosing the right event is directly linked to your goal behind networking. Are you looking to connect with more people in your industry? Are you interested in learning about a certain topic and meeting people who share the same interest? Are you looking for a career or business opportunity?
These are questions to help you select the right event for you. In addition, I would also consider evaluating smaller versus larger events. For example, if you are someone who doesn't enjoy mingling in a group of a 100 people in a hotel conference room with your name on a sticker, then small groups are a better fit for you.
2. Prepare your intro
How are you going to answer the usual question "what do you do?" Because it will pop up!
You need to have a ready-to-go elevator pitch to say what you do, who you work with, and what you are looking for.
Here are 3 examples for you:
"I'm a social media manager for business owners who want to grow their following and engagement on Instagram and Facebook while having more time to focus on their work with clients."
"I help fast-growing tech companies create structure in their organisation so they can successfully scale their business while keeping both employees and customers happy."
"I’m a software developer for [company]. My role is to provide smart engineering solutions so we can offer better services and products to our customers. I’m also learning about virtual reality and its applications as I would love to be more involved in this field in the future."
It’s also important that you practice your elevator pitch at home to make sure it feels authentic to you and doesn’t sound like you are reading from a script. This way you'll feel more confident and relaxed.
3. Plan your outfit
What are you going to wear? This may seem like a minor detail but it's not. Your personal image and style say a lot about you and, naturally, it's the first thing people see before they even get to talk with you. The last thing you want is to pick something random out of your wardrobe at the last minute. Plan your outfit beforehand, pick something that flatters you, makes you feel confident and comfortable, and make sure your grooming is on point!
4. Mind your mindset
Pay attention to your mindset when you go to a networking event, and how you think about networking. Before you stress out about getting valuable contacts and get something out of the event, think about it as a place where you'll meet new people, learn new things, and why not have a good time!
I also want to encourage you to think about networking as a long term investment: building relationships takes time and commitment and it starts way before you need it because you're looking for a job or business opportunity. In the meantime, you might find people you have things in common with and make new friends, you might get useful insights and hear interesting stories. This way, you'll feel more relaxed, you won't see it as a chore, and you'll probably get more out of it as a result.
5. Favour quality over quantity
While you might hear other people advising you to build as many connections as possible, I tend to disagree, or at the very least I don't believe this advice works for everyone. If you've enjoyed talking with a couple of people at the event and created a connection with them, that can be a lot more valuable in the long run than walking out of the networking event with 10 business cards in your pocket, only remembering the face of 3 of the people who handed a card to you.
6. Add value
Remember that networking is not only about what you can get but also what you can give. In conversations, don't just talk about yourself. Ask people questions and find out how you may be able to help them. It doesn't need to be a big thing - it could be about sharing a tip, pointing them in the right direction or introducing them to someone you know.
7. Follow up
Follow up with people you met at an event, especially if you had a nice conversation with them. Connect with them on LinkedIn, send them a message to say it was nice meeting them and keep the conversation going by inviting them for a coffee or sharing more info on the topic you talked about. What's the point of going to a networking event, having a nice conversation with someone and then leave it there?
Please share these tips with other people and feel free to add yours in the comments below so we can learn from each other!