You Can Improve Your Networking with These Simple Tips

4  min read

Tis the holiday season, and with the holiday season comes lots of holiday parties and networking opportunities. Regardless if you are looking for a new job or just putting feelers out there, it is great to be on top of your game. Here are my six tips for successful networking. Use then now or anytime throughout the year.

1. Network alone

You do not need a friend to approach a stranger and introduce yourself. All you need is confidence. I learned this lesson about four years ago. I had a friend that was drunk and became rude at an event I was invited to. They say you are the company you keep; she did not reflect me well. The next day, I told myself that when it came to my career, I would go at it alone. Since then, I have realized how powerful I am, and how impressed people are when I walk up to them, solo, and introduce myself. So, do not be afraid to go at it alone. 

2. Dress to stand out

No matter how amazing you think you are, always remember your appearance precedes you. Before you arrive at any event where you are looking to make connections, make sure you look clean and professional. You will feel more confident and, most of the time, people will approach you to start a conversation. Make it easier on yourself—dress to impress, and do not forget to smile. (Need more on this? Check out this post.)

3. Skip handing out your business card, instead get theirs

It is more important to get people’s business cards than to give out yours. Swapping is great, if you can. However, in my experience, it is better to get the other person’s card, because then you are in control of the follow up process. If you are waiting on someone else, you could be waiting forever. And when it comes to your career, be proactive not reactive.

4. Find common ground

Be interested in the individual. Ask him/her questions about life, travelling, hobbies or current events. Finding commonalities during the conversation makes the individual more likely to connect with you and remember you.

5. Always follow-up the next day

I would suggest mid-morning before noon. That way inboxes are likely to be cleared of yesterday’s e-mails, but it is not too late in the day where you are forgotten.  (Sending e-mails can be an art form. This is a topic I will discuss soon!) And if you can—remember something from the conversation to add to the e-mail. People are always surprised when you remember details about them and this helps jog their memory. For instance, “I hope your son Tim enjoys Washington University. Per our conversation, I went there as well.”  P.S. If you forget to follow up the next day, then do it before the third day. After that, you become an afterthought. 

6. Be relational not transactional

Most importantly, go into any social setting with the intention of building a relationship. When you first meet someone, it is bad business to talk business. It is off-putting. Wait until the follow-up or a later date to invite the person for lunch or drinks and then talk shop. But initially just focus on building a relationship. Get to know the person and his/her interests. Be engaged and sincere. People feel more comfortable helping you once they know you. Additionally, the more you think about networking in terms of building a relationship, the less likely you are going to be stressed out or nervous in those types of situations. 

One last thing to keep in mind, being comfortable talking to strangers does not come naturally to most. That is why you must keep putting yourself out there. Like everything else, you get better with practice.