Have you ever been in this situation? You’re at a networking event. Everywhere around you people are shaking hands and exchanging business cards. But you’re just standing there. Alone. Feeling a bit awkward. Well, you’re not alone feeling like this. Networking is an art. And as such, many of us have a tendency to just give up on it before even trying. But luckily, there is a cheat sheet. With these six foolproof networking basics tips, you are much better equipped to start networking than before.
However, equally important as what to do when you’re in a networking situation is what not to do. So stay tuned - there’s a small bonus in the end regarding just that.
But first, here are six foolproof, and actionable, ways to network.
If you genuinely try to help others they’ll end up wanting to do the same thing for you
#1. Ask not what others can do for you…
First of all, the mindset you have when you approach a networking situation is important. Try to take inspiration from American President John F. Kennedy and think not what others can do for you. Think instead what I can do for others. If you genuinely try to help others they’ll end up wanting to do the same thing for you. Thus, the motivation for helping each other out will start out from a genuinely good place.
Pro tip: Networking is a long term investment and should be treated that way. If you have built some good relationships over time they will come in handy when you need an extra hand.
#2. Fake it till you make it
Not all are born equal when it comes to networking skills. It’s a fact of life that extroverts are much better at immediately connecting with people while introverts often may have to overcome themselves just to stick out their hand and introduce themselves. The good news is that if you belong to the latter, you too can become a great networker.
The secret is “fake it till you make it”. While this may sound like a worn out cliché it’s still good advice. If you start out by pretending you’re feeling confident, you’ll eventually start actually feeling more confident. Remember, no one can see that you’re faking it.
#3. The elevator
The third networking advice we have for you is to have your elevator pitch ready. What’s an elevator pitch, you ask? Why, it’s a super duper short introduction to who and what you are (professionally, of course). It’s supposed to be so short that you can tell it during an elevator ride - hence the name. Think of it as a couple of refrains - you don’t exactly memorize a speech but you know what you want to highlight about yourself. Practice on friends and family if you’ve never used the technique before. Include these elements in your elevator pitch:
Introduce yourself with your name, smile and shake hands
Summary (education, work experience and/or any key specialties or strengths)
What’s your goal with the pitch (an introduction, an interview, internship etc)
Remember to adapt the pitch to the person you’re talking to. Don’t just create a rehearsed speech but make it conversational instead.
Elevator pitch example:
“Hi - nice to meet you. My name is John Johnson. I have an MBA in business management and for the last eight years I’ve been working in retail as a store manager. What I love the most about my job is the close contact I have with customers where I can really put my communication skills to good use. I’d love the opportunity to put my expertise to work for your company - would you mind if I call you up one day?”
The last part can be the most difficult. This is where you ask for permission to take action (in marketing we call this the Call To Action). But it’s important to finish this way so that the conversation doesn’t just come to a dead end.
Pro tip: Remember to speak slowly and articulate your words even though it’s supposed to be short. This demonstrates confidence and competence.
Speak slowly and articulate your words
#4. Ask, and you shall receive
If you want to build lasting and real relations make sure your counterpart sees you as a genuine and open person. One way of achieving this is by asking genuinely interested questions. The classic wh-questions such as who, why, where, what are perfect for this - and don’t forget to actually listen to the answers. The goal is to try to find some common ground - something you have in common with the other person. Maybe you’re from the same town? Maybe you both like bird watching? This will open up a lot of new opportunities for you to network around and you will see that the time spent here will be paid back ten fold over. Someone who feels a genuine connection to you is much more likely to help you out in the future.
#5. The cards must be dealt
Finish each conversation with handing out your business card to the other person and receiving his or hers back. If possible, find a quiet place to write a few keywords on the back of it afterward or attach a small note. If you’re at an event where you’ll meet a lot of people, this will help you better remember them from each other.
#6. The follow up
You’ve just networked your pretty little behind off, so now it’s over, right? Wrong. Now you need to follow up. Wait a couple of days and then send them an email saying you enjoyed meeting them. If you arranged to call them instead, you should of course do that. If it makes sense (e.g. if you live in the same city) you could ask if they want to meet up for a cup of coffee some day. This way you can nurture your new relationship without being too pushy.
Bonus and summing up
All of these advice can be used on a daily basis and are not meant only for big networking events. Use them whenever you’re in a situation where you meet someone who might be good to add to your network. Remember, the bigger and more nurtured a network you have, the better are the odds that someone will be able to help you out should the need arise. But don’t forget that your first goal should be to help them out first (see #1).
Use a tool like Jofibo’s resume tool to create personalised and professional resumes
Once you find yourself in a situation where you need help in for instance finding a new job, it’s important that you can offer your network a professional resume. This will increase the odds that they will take it further up the ladder to the person in charge of hiring. Use a tool like Jofibo’s resume tool to create personalised and professional resumes. Also, check out our article 7 Reasons Why You Need a Professional Resume.
And now for a little treat for still being with me (don’t worry, it’s very short).
Bonus: 3 small (but oh so important) things not to do when networking
These three little extra tips may seem like trivial details to you but on the receiving end they mean a great deal. Warning: they’re very tangible.
Are you ready? Here we go:
Don’t talk bad about others, especially your job, former job, former boss or colleagues. It’s not only bad manners. It can also hurt the way you are perceived by the other person.
Don’t yawn during a conversation. It’s just impolite and will give the other person the impression that you are bored in their company. If you must yawn, make sure to cover your mouth and apologise. Also explain why you’re tired (did you stay up too late? Are you jetlagged?).
Don’t let your eyes wander all over the room - stay focused on who is in front of you. The other person will feel it immediately if you are distracted or not paying attention to them.
And that’s a wrap. Thank you for your attention. With these new networking skills of yours you are ready to take on the world. Don’t forget to bring your shining resume with you to any networking event. You never know who’s there.
Try Jofibo’s resume builder here if you haven’t already created your resume.