“Networking” is a popular buzz word these days. Job seekers are told that networking is the way to connect with employers. Those in charge of business development know that networking can provide leads and expand exposure of their firm. Likewise small business owners are instructed to build their business through networking. But how do you network?
First let’s break networking into two categories, one-on-one meetings and group events. Many of the tips this series of blogs will address pertain to both but some tips are unique to only one category.
The first thing to always do is homework. If you are meeting one-on-one, research the other person. That means seeing what is available on the internet and social media sites. LinkedIn is a great site where you can gain professional information. Look for common professional connections and areas of common interest. Are there interesting roles or schools in their profile? Did their alma mater have a great game last week? You are seeking information about their firm, background and current role. Check out their company’s website. Is a professional bio available? This information will help you interview the person and provide “ice breaker” approach material.
Homework is also essential before group events. Do your best to determine who will also be in attendance. You may find the group has a publicly accessible membership list. You may have an email invitation that shows who else was invited. Once you have identified others that may be at the event, treat your research as if you were meeting one-on-one. A group event will provide a broader pool of prospects but your homework duties grow exponentially.
Networking is more than just showing up and having a conversation. Preparation is the key to meaningful conversations and will build your confidence.
Next week we will discuss what to wear, what to bring to the meeting and some tips on how to engage others.