You’re excited to meet new people, but are you approaching networking events in a way that’ll truly help your career? These four tips can improve your networking skills — fast.
We’re all constantly told that you have to network — and this is absolutely true and accurate advice. Networking can be an extremely powerful tool to create new job opportunities, develop your business or form new partnerships.
The unfortunate part is that very few people are taught how or what they should be doing when it comes to the art of networking.
As a result, most individuals head out to a networking event with no strategy or goals in mind and with absolutely no clue what to do after the event is over.
The whole event ends up feeling like one big blur and you come home feeling like you gained nothing — even like that your time could have been better spent doing something else.
If this feels like something you can relate to, you’re definitely not alone. This is how the majority of people reflect on their networking experiences.
The good news is that networking can be mastered by anyone as long as you keep a few simple tips in mind, and consistently work at it.
Here are four tips anyone who wants to be successful at networking must know.
1. Have a networking goal
Bill Copeland once said, “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”
It holds just as true for a networking event. You’ve set aside time from your busy schedule to attend a networking event, so you want to make sure you maximize value by setting clear and achievable targets.
Although you should be focusing on achieving quality over quantity, it doesn’t hurt to make this goal something along the lines of, “I want to speak to X number of people by the end of the event.”
Having a goal in mind will force you to step out of your comfort zone sooner and reduce the chances of you calling it quits before the event is over.
2. Don’t get trapped in quicksand
It happens to amateur networkers all the time: they meet someone at a networking event and end up spending far too much time talking to one person — all because they don’t know how to end the conversation without coming off as rude or inconsiderate.
This is what I call getting trapped in quicksand. Just like in a jungle, networking quicksand is dangerous if you’re on a tight time budget and have specific goals you want to meet.
To avoid this, have some potential exit strategies in mind. The following is a line that has worked well for me:
“Anyway, it was great talking to you. I don’t want to monopolize too much of your time. I’m sure there are plenty of other people you’re hoping to speak to as well.”
At this point you can ask them for their business card or LinkedIn info before you graciously make your exit.
Other potential options include telling the other person that you need to use the bathroom, get a drink of water, take an important phone call or even asking your conversation partner to introduce you to someone else.
3. Be an elephant
Elephants are known for their outstanding memory. If you want to succeed at networking, you too will need a good memory! The problem with networking events is that you’re meeting so many new people at once and it becomes difficult to remember who said what.
Keep a log whenever you go to networking events. Your log can be as simple as using the notepad on your phone to jot a few notes after you’ve met someone and obtained their contact info. Ideally you want to note two things that you could potentially mention to them when you send a LinkedIn invite. These two things can keep the conversation going and show you were actually listening.
Similarly, you should also aim to write something they mentioned which may be useful to you and your career. Maybe they mentioned their cousin works at the consulting firm you would love to join one day. You could use this new contact to get a warm introduction to their network once you’ve connected on LinkedIn and interacted for some time.
4. Kill ’em with kindness
In any type of relationship, it is absolutely crucial to provide value before getting value.
But it’s important to practice this method of thinking but during and after networking events. If someone you met identifies a problem you might be able to help them with, don’t be a scrooge! Offer them your assistance without expecting anything in return. Selfless deeds can go a long way.
A great example of this: a client of mine helped a recent law school graduate who wanted to get into patent law by putting the recent graduate in touch with his friend — a practicing patent lawyer — for an informational interview.
At the time, my client was trying to move into an operations director role at a non-profit. Take a guess whose mother sat on the board for one of the largest nonprofits in his city? That unemployed recent graduate that most people would have just ignored ended up being my client’s golden ticket to his next job.
Get out there!
Anyone starting out in networking has to recognize it is something that takes consistent practice and work to master. It’s not something you’re going to become a pro at overnight.
But on the other hand, it’s not something that only the special few can become great at. So put on your Sunday best and get out there towards building yourself into a networking powerhouse!
Vlad Novochek is a career and life coach who has helped his clients pursue their life ambitions and land their dream jobs. Check out www.scoremydreamjob.com for more great actionable career advice.