Networking hasn’t become obsolete with the advent of the digital age; it’s merely expanded onto new platforms. If you’re browsing LinkdIn, attending an industry conference in the waiting room at an interview you’ve got a chance to network. But, how do you know what to say in each instance? What do you ask the other person? And what do you do with all those cards at the end of the event?
- 1: Understand what networking is. It’s a case of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Usually, networking experts would break it down into four categories such as:
- Casual contacts at networking or industry events.
- Knowledge networks at professional associations.
- Strong contacts with groups that frequently meet with a particular purpose.
- Online networks like LinkedIn.
By understanding that there are different types of people at each networking occasion, you can start to create an image of the kind of individuals that you will encounter at each one. Think about the types of industries these people might belong to. Are they in the same line of work as you? Do they know much about your skill set? How much of a knowledge gap might there be? By understanding that each occasion will call for you to communicate with different information, you can better know what information to use and create stronger networks.
- 2: Be specific about your objectives. Ask yourself, “What do you want people to do with your card?” Communication is rounded up with a call to action. When you pass on your contact information, tell them exactly what you want them to do with those details. “Call me to set up that pitch when your product is ready” or “Send me an email with that link; I’d love to continue this conversation.”
- 3: Rehearse your pitch. When someone says, “What do you do?” you’ve got a one line explaining who you are, what your title is, what company you are a part of, what industry you’re in and what problems you solve. Give people concrete information so they can build a mental picture of who you are, not abstract terms that will confuse them and leave you not being remembered by them.
- 4: Listen better. Half of communication is opening your ears, not your mouth. Ask open questions like “How did you first get involved in that industry?” “Where is the biggest competition coming from?” to be able to create a rapport with those you’re engaging with. People don’t always remember what you said, but they remember how you made them feel.
- 5: Give back as much as you can. Introduce people you think will mutually benefit from each other’s skills and knowledge, follow up with that article you mentioned and send across contact details for the person you recommended. Networking is about what value you can provide others and connect the dots.
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