It’s the start of Q2 2015 and networking continues to be an important professional skill in the global economy. Networking can provide advanced professional development and long-term success. Moreover, as we know, the opposite of networking is “Not-working.” Any professional seeking success will find that networking is an important part of that success.
Each meeting with a new contact in your industry can provide an opportunity for friendship, mentorship, professional development, and relationship building. So, set aside your bias against networking, and, instead, seek to build real relationships with contacts and other industry leaders. Included here are five quick tips to improve your networking skills:
Make Networking Part of Your Schedule:
If you’re worried about jumping into networking, or wondering how you can make networking habitual, just follow this one simple strategy — reach out to one person whose work you find interesting at regular intervals – for example, every other day or every day or twice a week, etc.
That’s it! Don’t ask for anything, other than one minute of the contact’s time. All you need to do is reach with an email that shows your respect/interest in what he or she does, and that you just wanted to say “Hey” to a person who is doing something is that you find compelling. With this simple step, you will not come off as sleazy or desperate, and you will meet new leaders within your industry.
Also, be sure to network outside of your industry from time to time! We often get so focused on industry-related networking that we never reach out to people who may be working on interesting solutions and projects in other fields … and you never know what may come of it.
“Know” Your Contact:
When you are networking, you can impress your new contact and stand out by doing your homework. Research your contact beyond the “surface level” information. You can separate yourself from the pack by knowing more than the average networker about your contact’s background, work experience, and passion projects.
With this simple step, you will make a deeper connection with your contact and you will be remembered favorably.
Improve You Soft Skills:
To be a successful networker, you need to have highly developed soft skills, or inter-personal skills, as well as a strategic perspective. Before you reach out, you need to assess your own skills to determine how networking may provide a mentorship opportunity.
As you begin, assessing your own abilities can be hard. But, it helps to understand your own strengths and weaknesses before you try to improve your networking skills. Once you have completed your self-assessment, you can grow your relationship with your contact into a mentoring relationship.
Take Online Connections Offline:
Although it might be unrealistic for you to meet all of your online connections in person, it is possible to meet the some of them face to face. The power of an in person meeting is invaluable. Further, you never know when it might happen.
Reach out to your online networking connections when you know that you may be in the same area. This could mean arranging a meeting during a conference or at a seminars or CLE. Putting a name to a face will take a relationship to the next level.
Keep good notes:
Good networkers keep good notes! After your meeting, jot down everything that happened between you and your contact. Also, keep a calendar/reminders if you promised to email or call someone. Write down what topics you discussed.
Creating a contact profile right after a meeting will keep you organized, help you remember important information about your contacts, and will prepare you for follow-up. Further, when you return home from networking events, create a list of things to do and create specific plans for how you’ll reconnect with the people with whom you had conversations. If you don’t, you will be missing out on further networking opportunities.