We know networking is the key to successful connections. It can lead to job opportunities, personal and professional growth, and even friendships.
Social networks have made it so easy to network with people all over the world–they’ve made some pretty amazing communities and have connected so many people within the same industry. This booming technology has definitely helped us become more aware of the connections that can be made. But it seems to be forgotten that you have a whole slew of potential connections right in your own backyard.
Don’t underestimate the importance of networking in real life. Personally connecting and human interaction accelerates relationship building. Jobs are born through connections and getting to know as many people as you can where you live can give you better chances.
But again, you have to be able to stand out. I know it sounds easier to network online, but polish up those verbal communication skills! Don’t be shy. You need to be able to speak to people and know how to present yourself in any kind of position–start now.
Here are a few things that will help you get noticed:
Find the Right Place
There are tons of organizations for your specific industry, age, interests–anything. Most of them usually have local chapters. Get involved and attend as many seminars or events they hold. Many of these organizations even throw networking mixers for the sole purpose of networking. You’ll be right in the middle of the action. Pick the right one, though. Don’t go to events you don’t know anything about, as you may not have much to talk about.
Make Sure You’re Prepared
This shouldn’t be a surprise. You should always be prepared. Networking with people in real life, you only have one chance to make a great first impression. When you meet someone, the first thing they’re going to ask you is, “What do you do?” Make sure you have an answer or “elevator pitch” ready because you’re going to be asked this many, many times. Be specific. You should be able to tell anyone who asks, without hesitation, what your strengths are, what you’ve done at previous jobs, and what value you bring to an organization. Don’t just spit out your resume. Let the conversation flow and be sure to ask questions of the other person, as well.
Networking can be hard work, don’t get me wrong. However, most networking meetings – whether one-to-one or in a group – are designed for people to connect. So put yourself out there so others can connect to you. Smile. Laugh. Have fun. Enjoy the opportunity to make some new contacts and potential friends. You are human. Be someone who others will seek to know and like. Trust will follow when you are authentic in your relationships.
You can network until the cows come home, but it’s not going to matter one bit if you don’t follow-up! So many people go out and network, make some great connections, and exchange cards but never touch base with them again. Send connections a quick e-mail the next day. Say you enjoyed meeting them and how you’d like to keep in touch. Sending a simple “nice meeting you” e-mail is effective to begin engagement with. Further explore their networks on social media to see if your networks overlap or if you share connections by looking for your new contacts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. It’s an easy way to keep connected and engage with on a continuous basis.
How do make real life networking work for you?