Networking isn’t as simple as making a professional online profile and calling it a day. Getting noticed is a tough business, especially when you’re just starting out. Whether you’re a graduate fresh out of academia or branching out to explore a new industry, networking—when done right—just may land you your dream job.
But what’s the right way? With today’s advanced technology, networking methods are expanding constantly. That’s why we’ve put together this handy list of networking basics to help you get started. Use these tips to develop your own successful networking system and become a top notch networker.
- Start at the Beginning
When you’re unsure of how to begin, start at the top. Reach out to your connections, whether they be your former interns, supervisors, colleagues, or even just friends. Make sure you maintain healthy relationships with them. Explore your opportunities—ask if they have or know anyone who might need the skills you offer.
- Seek a Mentor in Your Field
When attending networking events, or business mixers, consider pairing up with someone you know in the industry. You have a slight advantage over other new networkers when you’re introduced by an experienced and respected connection.
Connecting with an existing contact on a more personal level will also help build your business relationship. They’re more likely to reciprocate and offer you tips and insight based on their experiences while working in your mutual field.
- Prepare in Advance
Before attending a mixer, make sure you set personal goals and familiarize yourself with potential attendees. Do your research on those companies and organizations to determine which ones can help you achieve your goals most successfully. Things to keep in mind:
- Company missions
- Company values
- Company goods/services offered
- Available job opportunities
It’s also important to establish a game plan. Choose a few companies you’re most interested in learning about. Identify what you’re looking for in a company, and determine why your goods or services make you stand out above the rest.
- Prompt Open Dialogue
Make sure your questions are ones that prompt deep, purposeful conversation. Questions requiring nothing more than “yes” or “no” answers do very little to engage the other party and can make for awkward situations. Open-ended questions help you get to know the other party on a more personal level, indicating your genuine interest in them and their company.
- Be an Expert Listener
Show that you’re interested in what company representatives have to say. When holding a conversation, demonstrate good listening skills (eye contact, body language, etc.). Companies look for individuals who are attentive and willing to learn. By not dominating the conversation, you’re indicating that you have a particular interest in what the other party has to contribute and that you’re not just out to absently flaunt your services.
- Distribute Your Business Cards Wisely
When attending a networking event, don’t hand out cards to everyone you bump into. Reserve your business cards for company representatives in whom you are interested. Also, make sure your business card stands out. Business cards often tend to get tossed aside or trashed after some time, so it’s important yours have staying power.
When you do hand them out, be sure to wait until the end of your conversation and ask for the other party’s card first. This shows that you’re thinking of them more so than yourself.
- Always Follow Up
After attending a mixer, utilize the business cards you’ve gathered—send out friendly follow-up emails. These are a few things to include:
- How you met
- Something unique to only your conversation
- Connect your contact with your services/purpose
Networking can be intimidating for those who are new to the concept, but keeping it simple and preparing yourself ahead of time can help alleviate some of those initial butterflies.