Networking is a powerful tool that helps you make beneficial connections and useful business contacts. It even has the power to help propel your career forward. But it isn’t something that just happens. It requires drive, hard work, organization, and a persistent attitude. It’s also something you’ll get better at the more you do. Here are seven tips designed to help you become a master networker.
The idea of practicing may seem strange, but if you’ve never attempted it before, networking can seem intimidating and overwhelming. The only way to feel more at ease is through practice. Business Insider suggests first sitting down with a guidebook to learn about networking 101. Two books worth checking out include How to Work a Room by Susan RoAne and Networking Like a Pro by Ivan Misner.
This is also a great time to start looking into networking groups. According to Business Insider, there are four types:
- Casual contact networks, which typically involve networking events or industry mixers.
- Knowledge networks, otherwise known as professional associations.
- Strong contact networks: Groups that meet often to help build professional relationships.
- Online networks, including professional social media services, such as LinkedIn.
2. Ask the right questions
Sometimes, networking requires a little outside research. Entrepreneur suggests getting the names of people who are expected to attend a networking event you’re going to, and then searching sites, such as LinkedIn, to learn a little bit more about them. Take a look at their profile summaries, and note any new projects or business endeavors they may be working on. People will be impressed with your attention to detail and flattered you know what they’re up to.
3. Share an interesting fact
Everyone has a rehearsed elevator speech they give others when asked, “What do you do?” But try to avoid spouting off generic facts about your company and career. Instead, say something memorable that will leave a lasting impression, Entrepreneur suggests.
Try responding with something personal that accurately depicts who you are. Perhaps it’s a hobby, such as training for a marathon, or a passion of yours, such as building model cars. The point is, in order to give people an accurate picture of who you are, you need to share something with them. Sharing fun facts can also keep the conversation light and help others feel more comfortable.
4. Never stop networking
Just because your career is going great doesn’t mean you still don’t need connections. The truth is, you have no idea when you may need someone’s help, whether it’s for personal or professional reasons. It’s not good etiquette to ask someone for a favor if you haven’t talked to him or her in a long time. Instead, Forbes recommends maintaining all of your strong connections. Additionally, it’s important to continue meeting new people and expanding your network. New opportunities arise every time you meet a new contact.
5. Give more than you take
Networking isn’t a one-sided thing. It takes two people, and a willingness on both sides to help the other out. That means when people come to you asking for favors, it pays to be generous and assist them, according to Kennedy Executive.
Imagine if you say no, and months later find yourself in a predicament where the other person could really help. He or she is probably not going to be too excited to assist you if you recently refused to lend a helping hand. You may not see any immediate benefits to helping others, but eventually you’ll be happy you took the time to offer your assistance.
“You want to be the one people go to when they need something. That means suggesting somebody else for a job when you can, putting them in touch with an acquaintance they should know… You have to give, give, give,” Matthew Rothenberg, Editor-in-Chief of career content at TheLadders, tells Business Insider.
6. Connect with people outside of your industry
As a powerful networker, you should have relationships with people who are in and out of your industry. For example, Scott Gerber writes in an Inc. article, “Last year, I introduced Ciplex founder Ilya Pozin to Threadless founder Jake Nickell because I believed that Ilya’s new business idea (now OpenMe) was a unique business opportunity — one that could benefit from Jake’s extensive experience in retail and community building. They had never met in person at that point. Today, they’re working together to disrupt the greeting-card industry.”
Sometimes your best connections are with people who are in different industries. It opens up the possibility for new opportunities, and allows you to build a network with more varied social capital.
7. Maintain relationships
As you continue to meet more people and grow your network, it’s important to stay organized. Have a way to keep track of them all — it could be as simple as starting a list that includes their contact information — and then stay in touch.
The New York Times recommends prioritizing your contacts and frequently reaching out to contacts who are most useful to you, otherwise known as your inner circle. But make sure you aren’t burning bridges along the way, either. Just because some of your contacts may not seem useful to you at the moment, doesn’t mean they won’t eventually be able to help you out. Simply put, be nice to everyone, and make an effort to touch base with all of your network contacts; there’s no need to make an unintentional networking enemy.