I used to hate networking. It conjured up images of crowded events in stuffy hotel lobbies, nametags getting stuck in my hair, balancing a glass of white wine, and standing awkwardly among strangers. To add insult to injury, I PAID to attend!
But, love it or leave it, networking is an important part of your career. As a former networking-loather, I thought I’d share the tips and tricks I acquired to getting through them:
- Remember that you have something to offer and approach each conversation with the intention of figuring how you can help the other person. This is a great tip I got from Keith Ferrazzi’s excellent Relationship Mastery Academy. I’ve made great, meaningful relationships with folks I’ve met at events just by offering to be helpful in meeting their goals.
- Approach people standing alone. It’s easy to start up a conversation with a person standing solo, and they are often grateful that you “made the first move.”
- Use tables and lines as ways to get to know people. “Is this the line for the food/bar/registration?” or “Is this seat taken?” are great conversation starters.
- Circulate! There was a time I would find someone at these events and cling to them. But this severely limited my ability to meet people. So I make a deal with myself before an event to talk to at least 20 people. I’m not allowed to leave until I do.
- Know how to exit the conversation. If you want to circulate, you’re going to have to learn how to exit a conversation. One, decide what the next steps are with this person. Two, say, “It’s been great talking to you and hearing about your experience…I’m going to follow-up with you about xxx.” Three, ask for their contact information.
- Follow-up. Within 24 hours send an email that says “nice meeting up” and then give them anything you promised them that would be helpful.
- Keep in touch. If you hit it off, make sure you don’t disappear.
- Finally, make sure you’re able to articulate how people can help you, in case any one asks!