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Networking Tips

Aptly defined by the dictionary as a supportive system for sharing information and services among individuals and groups with a common interest, being part of a network can link you with people who, through trust and relationship-building, essentially become human advertisements for you. Networking is especially helpful as you begin to move forward in your career. Having a relationship with someone who is connected to others in your industry will help you stand out to potential employers, and may also help you get your foot in the door at places you may not have the opportunity otherwise. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

  1. Be prepared. According to success coach Stephanie Speisman, networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others in return. Ask yourself ahead of time what your goals are in participating in networking meetings so that you will pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Don't waste any time by going in unprepared.

  2. Consider the possibilities. Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Many of them will allow you to participate twice before you decide to join. During your visit, pay attention to the tone and attitude of the group. Make sure the members are supportive of each other and that the leaders of the group appear to be knowledgeable and experienced.

  3. Know yourself and what you want. Have a clear understanding of what you do, and what makes it special or different from other people in the same position. If you want referrals from others, you should be able to articulate your duties to them. It is also important to be able to explain what you are looking for and how other people may be able to help you. When someone asks you how they may help you, know in advance what you will say in response.

  4. Practice your introduction. There aren't many things more embarrassing than being tongue-tied when you try to start a conversation with a person you've never met. To avoid feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, prepare a self-introduction that is clear and succinct. While what you say about yourself will depend on your current goals, your introduction shouldn't take any longer than 10 seconds. Practicing what you are going to say might seem artificial at first, but it will help you introduce yourself confidently and smoothly.

  5. Don't be shy. Research shows that shyness is a learned behavior. As you get older, experiencing rejection teaches you to "shy" away from being open and friendly with people right from the start. If you're a shy person, work on overcoming your fears before visiting a networking meeting. Start by telling the stranger next to you in the elevator that you like her earrings, or tell her to have a nice day on her way out. Shyness may be misinterpreted as indifference and you don't want to send that message. Take the initiative to approach a person and introduce yourself. Listen carefully to what he or she says, as you may discover shared interests or goals that will be useful in continuing the conversation.

  6. Ask open-ended questions. In networking conversations, ask questions that inquire who, what, when, where, and how rather than those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Open-ended questions encourage discussion and show listeners that you are interested in talking to them.

  7. Use business cards. Business cards are a great tool for marketing skills and services and they can increase your chances of landing a job or creating a business opportunity. Give them out to everyone, including family and friends. Make it a habit to carry several of them with you wherever you go, and whenever you give one out, ask for one in return. When given another person's card, don't just take it and put it in your pocket right away. Look at it for a few seconds, as you might see something that could be a topic of discussion. This will also show that you have a sincere interest is the other person. By making people feel important, you are making yourself important to them.

  8. Follow through and keep in touch. When someone gives you a referral, follow through quickly and efficiently, as your actions are a reflection on him or her. Call or e-mail the people you benefit from, as well as those who may benefit from you. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if they'd like to get together again. Doing so will increase your number of referrals and potential opportunities.

  9. Stay positive. Maintaining a positive outlook is important in many aspects of your life, as it is in business networking. It is common to be reluctant to approach people in new situations, which is why mentally preparing yourself is so important. Ignore the negative thoughts that could deter you from connecting with others. For example, you're only one of dozens of other people trying to build a network, why should you bother trying to impress this person? Or perhaps you don't think you know enough about the company to have a worthwhile conversation with the representatives. But such negative thoughts prevent you from getting past social roadblocks. By simply changing your attitude, you'll get a lot further. Just remember a few things:

  10.       a. People enjoy talking about themselves. Asking questions will get a       conversation going every time.

          b. When you show an interest in people and their companies, they feel       flattered and will generally reciprocate your interest.

          c. Believe in yourself. You have more to offer than you might think.



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