Most people at the top of their profession will all agree that they could not have gotten where they are at if it hadn’t been for networking with someone. Networking is a powerful tool. In most professions, you need to know the right people to either get the job you want, to move up in your career, or have a better business. It is not about how much you know, but about who you know.
What does network mean? Networking according to Dictionary.com is “interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.”
One of the best things about networking is you can do it anywhere. You never really know who your next important connection will be until you talk to them. Here is how to improve networking skills:
Always Have Business Cards
When you have established your business occupation or you’re in the progress of getting started ALWAYS carry around at least 50 business cards. You never know who you are going to meet. The business cards don’t have to be fancy. They just need to have your name, name of your business (or occupation), contact info (phone, email, & social media), and the industry you’re in.
When you meet your connection, it will look more professional to give them your business card versus putting your name & number into their phone or worse on a random piece of paper that is found at the bottom of your purse.
Giving your connection to your number (or vice versus), you run the risk of your contact getting lost in the sea of contacts in their phone without a business card for them to refer back to.
Start a Conversation
This is probably a shy introverted person’s worse nightmare. To network, you have to talk to people. As a formerly shy person who used to be scared of talking to a stranger, I’m here to tell you talking to people isn’t as scary as you may think. However, we’ll start slow and I’ll teach how to network with strangers. If talking to new people is not hard for you then you can skip this part.
If talking to people is hard for you then start slow, by talking to people whose job is too friendly people such as cashiers, bank tellers, retail floor workers, etc. It does not have to be a long conversation. You can start off as something simple as, “Hi, how are you” when you go make your purchase. Once you’ve started keep doing it until you get comfortable with it.
Once you get comfortable talking to people then you can try to make the conversation a bit more personal by asking more personal questions such as “how long have you’ve worked here? I like your (you fill in the blank)” The point of this is to get you comfortable and used to talking to strangers.
As you get more comfortable talking to cashiers work on striking up conversations with people who are not getting paid to be nice. Depending on where you live this may be easier or harder for you to do. The best way to start a conversation with a stranger is either with a joke or a compliment.
If you’re a lady complimenting another lady then you can generally compliment her about anything physical such as her outfit, makeup, hair, her beauty, etc. Unlike men complimenting each other or complimenting the opposite sex, when women complement each other it’s the best feeling ever.
If you’re a man complimenting another man it may be a little trickier because most men don’t compliment each other especially on their physical appearance. It’s best to compliment him on material stuff, career or accomplishments. For example, you compliment him on his watch or his car. Most guys work hard to get this type of stuff so when you compliment him it’s not only rare, but it’ll make him want to talk to you more.
Complimenting opposite genders gets a little bit awkward if it is just for networking purposes. If you are married or in a serious relationship, I don’t recommend this method. It could come off to your partner as a cheat or your connection could think you are trying to make a romantic move on them.
Make the Conversation Worth it
Another networking tip is to make sure the conversation lasts no longer than 15 minutes unless you’ve guys have really hit it off. In that short amount of time, you must get the most out of your conversation. The best way to do this is by making the conversation about them and learning to ask the right questions to make sure this is the type of person you want to network with.
You should ask about their job, their position and how long they have been there. If they answer correctly then you mention what you’re doing or what you’re working towards. Regardless, if they can help you now or later it’s important to get their contact information because you never know if an opportunity later will open up.
It also helps to make the conversation memorable by making a connection with their occupation, recreation, or family. For example, If you both are engineers deepen the conversation through that, or if both of your daughters love doing their makeup talk about that. You want to make sure that they remember you. So when an opportunity arises you’ll have a greater chance of getting a callback.
Say their Name
If a person mentions their name remember about it and say it again throughout the conversation. The sound of a person’s name is their favorite word. If you remember it that makes them like you more. When you mispronounce their name or say a different name that leaves a bad impression. First impressions are everything.
Networking is about gathering information and seeing if it can help you. It’s not a therapy session nor is it a time to complain. If something is bothering you hold it in or wait to tell a friend/family. People generally do not want to associate with others who come off as negative even if they are having a bad day.
Learn How to Listen
One of the most frustrating things about talking is when a person is only listening just so they can talk. When someone is talking even if it’s for a while listen, and reiterate back to what they said. This will make them want to know more about you and like you more. Most people don’t listen to others when they talk, so you’ll come as rare and intelligent.
Put Your Phone Away
Another important networking tip is to put your phone away. It’s so rude, and frustrating when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone, but you can’t because they’re either on their phone or trying to send a quick text message. Most people, especially strangers, are going to walk away then you just lost a potential person to network with.
Networking isn’t hard, but conversing with new people can be challenging. These tips work even if it’s for building business networking skills.