How to get the most out of networking.

Jeff Valentino

March 5, 2019

One mistake that many professionals make is underestimating the importance of networking. Good networking can be the difference between a prosperous career and a stagnant one.

How to get the most out of networking:

Whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned professional high up on the career ladder, having an established strong network is invaluable. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of networking.

Utilize social media.

Social media has expanded into the business world. There is the more obvious networking opportunities, such as a business networking site, with the most well known being LinkedIn. These are geared towards showcasing your skills and experience. They focus on helping professionals build their network and even give you the opportunity to apply to positions that are exclusively posted on the networking site. Creating a profile and adding other professionals you know to your network can be extremely beneficial and an easy way to transition your network online.

However, as social media continues to expand, other more social sites, like Twitter, have full accounts dedicated to posting job opportunities for specific groups of people. Some people have even successfully utilized these social sites to get noticed by companies and, thereby, getting their job applications a second glance.

Attend networking events.

It goes without saying that in order to network effectively you have to actually talk to people. This is something to consider during large sales events or trade shows. However, you need to keep in mind that the event is a means to meet new people and if you want your network to grow you need to put yourself out there.

Don’t be afraid to mingle and start a few conversations with strangers. Odds are, you’re not going to immediately hit it off with everyone that you meet, but the best way to figure that out is to actively talk to new people. Try you hardest not to be a wallflower.

If you don’t see your conversation going anywhere, or the person that you are talking to doesn’t seem fully interested, then politely excuse yourself from the conversation and move on. You’ve got to value their time and yours.

Show genuine interest.

Be authentic. Your focus should be on building relationships with others. While networking will help your career in the long run, when creating these connections business should not be on the forefront. Making the conversation all about what someone else can do for you is a surefire way to have them lose interest and write you off. Let people talk about themselves and business will likely come up organically.

Make sure that you are giving the person that you are talking to your full attention. Actively listen and respond to the things that they are saying. If you find something they mention interesting, ask them elaborate. This brings a genuine level of interest to your interaction, that helps you better participate in the conversation.

Your body language is also important. Maintaining direct eye contact, being at ease, and nonverbal expressions such as nodding your head in agreement show that you are invested in the conversation.

Trade business cards.

Using business cards is a great way to get your name and information out there for potential clients or career mentors. Make sure that you always have a good number of your own business cards on you.

If you don’t have physical business cards, consider downloading an app that allows you to create digital business cards, such as Haystack. You can also use your business social media account on LinkedIn to create an immediate form of contact.

Caution: Don’t give your card out to every person you speak to. You don’t want your cards to be something that someone throws away at the end of the night. If they don’t ask for your card, then ask for theirs. That way, you can follow-up later instead of waiting for a call that won’t come.

Have a goal.

If you have access to an attendee or RSVP list to a networking event take a look at it. It’s possible that there will be professionals there who could become clients or help you get your foot in the door at your dream company. Do your research.

Many people find small talk to be tedious. Try mentioning an achievement or accomplishment of the person that you are talking to. Chances are, you can start the conversation in a more interesting place while also helping them feel more comfortable in reasoning that you find their work and accomplishments interesting.
Perfect Your Pitch
A networking event is an excellent opportunity to sell your skills and your experience to the right people. Make sure that you have your pitch locked, loaded, and ready for when the opportunity arises.

Pro Tip: Your pitch isn’t just about your skills, it should focus on how you are a solution to your client’s problem. For example: If they need to increase traffic to their website, your pitch should focus on how your skills increase website traffic.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s necessary to pitch to every person that you talk to. Your focus should be on creating relationships with professionals. If it doesn’t come up organically in conversation, then don’t bring it up.

Getting a card or contact information should be your priority, that way, you can pitch yourself at a later and more appropriate time.

Look the part.

It’s true that the business world is shifting. It’s no longer mandatory to wear your best suit or dress in order to show people that you mean business.

However, it is important to take your appearance seriously. If you are going for a job that will require professional attire on a daily basis, then it’s a good idea to look the part. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Make sure to follow any stated dress codes.

Follow-up on all leads.

Just because the event has ended, doesn’t mean that your work is over. It’s time to put all of those business cards to use and actively grow your network. Send personalized follow-up emails and add people that you’ve met on LinkedIn.

Networking is the best way to get yourself out there and build your personal brand. Make sure that you’re always focused on growing your network and be sure to utilize these tips. You never know where your dream job could turn up.

Written By:
Jeff Valentino
VP of Business Development
Jeff.Valentino@ncr.com

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