Networking can be a challenging task. It can seem insincere and selfish, like you are using the other person to attain something for yourself (i.e. only networking with folks who can help you get promoted, etc). Many people find themselves very uncomfortable with that idea, and rightly so. However, there are ways to combat these challenges and become an effective networker with the goals of yourself and others in mind.
Start by reframing your networking goals to focus more on relationship building. Acknowledge that new connections can be mutually beneficial and that you have as much to offer them as they have to offer you. Doing this helps to alleviate concerns regarding the selfishness of networking. In addition, if you make a commitment to work on the relationship beyond the point where that person directly benefits you, then you may also see networking as a more sincere form of meeting new people and connecting in a meaningful way.
Once you’ve surpassed those mental blockades and found the right mindset, you’ll then face the challenge of carrying out the act of networking. While there are many components that contribute to successful professional relationships, we offer three main factors to keep in mind:
1. First impressions. Let’s face it, first impressions aren’t everything, but they sure do count for a lot. Our society has grown so rushed, especially when it comes to business, that others are going to assess you within the first few minutes (sometimes even seconds) that they meet you. To leave a great first impression be sure that you look, act and speak professionally and find a way to make a personal connection. It’s important to remember that although the person you found yourself conversing with may not recall everything you said, they will certainly remember how you made them feel. This may seem like a lot of pressure, but do your best to remain natural and true to yourself.
2. Business cards are generally the only tangible thing the other person takes away from your conversation, and will help to spark their memory of your interaction. Be sure your cards are a good reflection of you. For instance, if you market yourself as a creative person, make sure your cards show it. Almost every professional carries business cards, so do your best to make yours stand out above the rest.
3. Follow through, follow through, follow through! This component of networking cannot be emphasized enough. If you’ve gone through all of the trouble of establishing a new connection, don’t let poor follow through ruin the work you’ve already put in. Contact the person to thank them for chatting with you and suggest a specific course of action (i.e. ask them to meet with you again over coffee or lunch, or maybe you’ll ask them to forward you a resource they mentioned during your initial discussion). If they do not get back to you, don’t be afraid to check in again once some time has passed. Of course, you’ll have to use discretion to ensure your persistence does not become irritating.
We hope these tips will help you make stronger connections when the opportunity for networking arises. Consider testing these tricks at future conferences, like TriSec 18!