Networking should be classed as an art form. I have come across people who can work a room in half an hour and come out with a notebook full of names, phone numbers and basically connections for life.
Networking can be made both online and in person. I will speak more about the online ones when we go through social media platforms.
There are numerous networking groups in all professions. In Cork alone we have, to name a very few:
Do yourself a favour now and list what networks are available to you and then search for some more online. Copy each URL on a word document and keep it. Decide which one you think would be a good fit and contact them.
But what do to then? Why should you network at all?
Networking in any shape or form is in my eyes is relationship marketing. You create these relationships for particular goals by establishing and maintaining lines of communication. This in turn create an awareness about you and your profile. As time moves on and connections increase, you should become more influential and your profile builds with these relationships.
When creating networks, you need to be aware of your target audience. Just like with all tools you use in your personal online branding box, it takes time and good management skills to maintain your positive profile. So if you know who and what type of people to connect with early on, the easier it becomes to manage.
Here is a good time to bring in about your “elevator pitch”. That 90 second window that you have to impress someone but the brilliance of you! Write this down and edit it as it won’t be right the first time. Be honest and true, don’t over do it.
Include the who, what, why, where, and when’s.
- Who I am,
- What I can do for you,
- Why you would want me as a connection,
- Where I can see myself in the future and,
- When would you like to meet or chat again?
Let’s consider the possibility that you are at an event, conference, exhibition, meeting etc. These are networking possibilities, so grab it. Here are the to-do’s:
- Dress the part
- Bring business/personal cards
- Have a notebook or your contact list at the ready on your phone. I do find a notebook easier as sometimes in bright lights, it’s hard to type on your phone, especially if you are (on the inside) nervous.
- Know your audience. If there is a guest list, study it and know who you need to approach.
- Don’t wait by the wall hoping that someone will talk to you. Why would they, if you’re by the wall?
- Know what to say. Have questions prepared and even some jokes.
- Always follow up either online, an email or even a quick call and thank them for taking time to chat. Use this opportunity to arrange another meeting or connect with them through social media eg LinkedIn, Twitter, Academia.edu.
The key to networking is the more people you connect with, the better your profile will become as one connection can in turn lead to multiple connections, stemming from that one connection.