Networking is an art, and like any artist, you need to constantly practice, refine and critique your work. Networking makes a huge contribution to your life and career, and it’s a skill that anyone can acquire.
These networking tips can help you get started:
- Be open. Be open to new ideas, opportunities and people.
- Be prepared. Success in networking is when preparedness meets opportunity. Set a goal for each networking experience.
- Give just to give. Don’t give with the sole purpose of getting something back. Work hard for others and the rewards will come back to you ten times over.
- Treat everyone as equals. There is no real value in title or prestige alone. Value is in the information and support people can give, and that often comes from surprising sources.
- Be courteous. Listen to others when they speak. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Get to the point quickly.
- Ask for referrals. Contrary to what you might think, the best time to get referrals is during the “honeymoon” stage of relationships, when you are getting to know and like each another. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you have “proven” yourself to ask for referrals. Ask when you know you have clicked.
- Say thank-you. Thank the people who have helped you.
- Follow through. Follow through on your commitments, both to yourself and others. A good referral or piece of advice only becomes activated into help when you follow it up.
- Keep good records. Take full and accurate notes. Otherwise, you will never remember what you’ve committed to do. Keep lists, schedules, and cross-referenced files. Write reminder notes about people you’ve met on the back of their business cards.
- Get organized. Organize yourself: your thoughts, your notes, your files, and your time. This takes time in the short run, but will save you tenfold in the long run. Use a good database, organize by category and use codes for easy identification.
- Circulate. Talk with as many people as you can at a networking function. One way to feel comfortable doing this is to think of yourself as the host. Mingle. Introduce people to one another.