No matter the profession, having great networking skills is a crucial component in business. According to a study done by LinkedIn, 85% of all jobs are filled by some type of networking. Everyone you meet could be a potential connection to further your career so it is important to freshen up on your skills from time to time. Instead of walking in to a room and dreading introducing yourself to a bunch of strangers, we want you to feel confident.
Keep it Simple
Networking is all about building a relationship with someone. You want to get the conversation started without coming off too strong with a sales pitch. Approach a new contact with the mentality that you are going to introduce yourself and only bring up business if the other person initiates it. If they do inquire about your professional background, be ready with a quick few points instead of telling them your entire history. Keeping the conversation light and quick will leave them with things to talk about the next time you chat.
It may seem easier to walk up to a conversation already happening and introduce yourself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, when you start to commandeer the conversation completely this can make everyone in the conversation feel uncomfortable and some may be annoyed by this. Instead, try joining in on the conversation or suggesting a topic that everyone in the group can easily be a part of.
Quality Not Quantity
People want to do business with a person, not a business card. Speed-networking through a room to see how many business cards you can hand out is not the end goal here. Introducing yourself with a strong handshake, making solid eye contact, repeating their name when appropriate, and listening to what they have to say is a crucial component. Don’t focus on seeing how many connections you can make, but rather how many quality connections you can make.
Before building up the courage to approach someone new, take a second to think about what exactly your goal is at the end of the conversation. Are you looking to get a new job, seeking advice to enter a new field, or just interested in chatting about work that person has previously done? Thinking about what your end goal is prior to approaching this person will make the conversation flow much easier. You can even come up with a few bullet points prior and refer back to them during your conversation if needed.
You’ve probably heard the saying “Make Friends, Not Contacts.” This saying is probably one of the most important aspects to networking. Unless you have to, try not to talk about business the first time you meet someone. Instead, try making an effort to get to know someone on a personal level. Developing a more valuable connection will most likely make you stand out among everyone else who offers up a business card the second they meet someone new. Later, when you follow up with the person you previously talked to, you can continue the non-business discussion or at this point bring up something business related.