Professional networking is one of those things that most people dread. It feels awkward, uncomfortable, and forced. However, you’d be hard-pressed to deny the fact that networking is directly linked to career success. As the old adage goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
5 Tips for Networking Success
Networking is a very personal thing in the sense that different personalities and careers require different techniques. However, regardless of your goals, the following tips have proven to be helpful.
1. Dress for Success
If you know you’ll be interacting with your peers or attending a formal networking event, pay attention to what you wear. In the beginning stages of networking, your appearance is what people evaluate. Looking disheveled and messy can damage your reputation.
2. Master the Introduction
First impressions are everything in networking. If you want to be a good networker, then you must learn how to master the introduction. Here are the three keys to a professional introduction:
- Firm handshake. Your handshake says a lot about you. A limp handshake says you’re weak, while a firm handshake puts you in a position of authority. The length of the handshake also matters. It’s better to let the other person release their grip before you. Ideally, you should hold the shake for three to five seconds.
- Eye contact. As you approach and initiate a handshake, make eye contact with the other individual. This shows respect and confidence. Failing to make eye contact makes it seem like you have something to hide.
- Smile and speak. Finally, flash a quick smile and introduce yourself. The smile humanizes you and relaxes the moment, while the introduction allows you to start a conversation.
It’s that simple. If you can deliver a firm handshake, make eye contact, offer a quick smile, and say the right thing, you’ll make a positive first impression every single time. This gets you in the door – it’s what you do from here that makes or breaks a potential networking relationship.
3. Let the Other Person Talk
There are a number of “don’ts” when it comes to networking with people. For example, you don’t want to be the only one talking. This is one of the biggest turnoffs. Why would anyone want to form a working relationship with you if all you do is talk about yourself? If you get the feeling that the other person isn’t great at starting conversation, engage them with questions. Help them feel important and don’t make it all about you.
4. Develop a Follow Up Strategy
Every good networker has what some would call a follow up strategy. This strategy is how you follow up with contacts after a formal meeting or introduction. It’ll look different depending on the situation, but having some measures in place will ensure you don’t lose touch with the people you meet.
5. Give to Get
Finally, you have to remember that networking is a two-way street. You can’t exploit your contacts or you’ll lose them. In many cases, you’ll need to give something before you get something. Don’t be put off by this. It’s how you develop strong, lasting relationships.
Never Stop Networking
Professional networking isn’t something you can do and then forget about. It’s a continual process that requires years of commitment and dedication. Even when you think you’ve reached the top of your field, networking has value. You never know when you’re going to need someone else’s help. While how you network may change over time, you shouldn’t ever give it up completely. The most successful people in the world are those who have vast personal networks.