One of my personal goals is to improve my networking skills. Here are some networking tips, based on my own experience.
- Create personal networking cards to hand out. Even if you already have a job. The idea is that you are able to give our your personal contact info vs. your work email and telephone number and not limit yourself to your current profession, especially if you are looking to branch out and do something new and different. Vistaprint will give you 250 free business cards. Information to put on your personal card: name, a tagline (a quick description of what you do or what you want to do), email address, website and telephone number. I would suggest leaving off your mailing address, for the purpose of privacy and security.
- Be friendly and make friends with people because you want to get to know them, not because you want to sell them something, or need something from them. I'm not a fan of people who chat with me just to give me a sales pitch. I can usually smell them from a mile away and avoid them at all costs. On the other hand, I've built great relationships with friends I've met at organizations and will then help them out later on, or listen to what they want to tell me. Once credibility and a friendship has been established, I'll become a loyal part of their professional network. It's about building a relationship.
- Keep up-to-date about current events, so you have something to talk about. If you run out of topics, ask them questions about what they do, where they live, the company they work for. People love to talk about themself!
- Remember to follow-up! Send your new contact an email, or better yet, give them a call. Set up time to meet over coffee, or for lunch. Use this opportunity to get to know them better and remember to thank them for taking the time to connect with you. Don't forget to stay connected with your new contact. Add them on LinkedIn and periodically send them an email to stay in touch. That way, if you need their help one day, you won't just be going to them in times of need.
Trying to figure out where to meet new people? Try these locations:
- Professional organizations- some organizations exist with the sole purpose of offering networking opportunities. Instead of avoiding them, try to embrace them.
- At the company where you work- get to know someone in your department. Or someone outside your department. You might find that you have a lot in common and can help each other out by collaborating on projects.
- Community groups- join your city's Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Lion's Club, Young Professionals club or Toastmasters. This is a great way to meet other professionals living and working in your community, especially with others outside of the learning and development world.
- Via friends-of-friends/acquaintances- next time you're at a social gathering, strike up a conversation with someone that you've never met before. (They won't even know you're trying to network with them!)