The first of an an ongoing series of posts offering practical advice on topics using the model of “Start, Stop, Continue“.
1. START now, even if you don’t need to.
If you wait until you need to network, you will be at a distinct disadvantage to those who make networking a regular part of their professional development.
Do you need to network at the same level or intensity as someone looking to find a new job, or gain support for their ideas? Probably not, but rest assured, if you’re not out there making connections or meeting new people on a fairly regular basis you’re missing out on opportunities that others aren’t!
2. START following up.
Remember when you met that one person at that one thing, and you promised to send that article along with a LinkedIn request? Oops.
Follow up is crucial, whether it be to deliver resources as promised, or simply to make an effort to connect in a meaningful way after the networking event.
Post event, take a moment to organize your thoughts and reach out to key contacts. Remember, doing what you said you would do builds trust, and trust builds relationships!
3. STOP trying to be everyone’s friend.
At any networking event, formal or informal, your goal shouldn’t be to make meaningful connections with everyone. Instead focus first on an initial introduction with as many people as possible, and then settle in to a solid conversation with a handful of people who share a common interest.
The time you spend developing rapport with a handful of people will yield far greater results, and odds are good you won’t have to pretend to remember names the next time you see them!
4. STOP focusing solely on your agenda.
Every relationship is about give and take, and networking is no different. You may be there to sell your skills, experience or ideas, but what about the people you are talking to? Find out about their goals and make a genuine effort to connect them with the resources or people that can help them.
Focusing on helping others has a way of building positive momentum, and that momentum will help you accomplish your goals!
5. CONTINUE seeking new ways and places to network.
Fresh perspectives and new people are critical to your networking efforts. Don’t get comfortable!
Find ways to expand your network by taking on new roles within your existing professional network (volunteering, etc.) or make a consistent effort to expand your presence in new arenas.
Remember that only a small percentage of the people you meet will become long term contacts. To improve your chances of making connections that matter you need to reach far and wide!
6. CONTINUE ditching business cards in favor of LinkedIn.
Always keep a healthy supply of business cards on you, and always take business cards when they are offered. These rules apply especially in formal networking environments. Its just part of being prepared.
After the event however, be certain to connect with your new contacts on LinkedIn. It’s the easiest way to ensure you stay in touch if you, or your contacts, change jobs or move!
What do you think? What other activities should we START, STOP and CONTINUE when networking?