Networking is seen as a necessary evil for many professionals. Mention the word and they picture a room full of salespeople handing off business cards and touting their services before moving on to the next person.
Here are some networking tips to make your ventures both enjoyable and productive.
Start with interest groups. Instead of attending large “business card exchanges”, join a group of people that have interests similar to yours.
What are your hobbies? Are you a parent? Does a certain nonprofit organization appeal to you? Choose your interest group accordingly and you benefit in two ways. First of all, you go in knowing you have something in common with the members. This is a perfect icebreaker. Secondly, you build relationships with a person, not a title. And the best networkers know that trusting relationships are essential.
Measure your success by conversations. When attending events, don’t think of success as speaking to everyone and passing out a lot of business cards.
Instead, think of the productive conversations that you had. Did you get a good feel for each person? Did you learn something about them outside of their job? Did they conversation flow well and did the other person enjoy speaking with you? Or, did it feel like you were “working them?”
Whether 2 or 20, productive, sincere conversations are the ones that are best for follow-up, your ultimate goal.
Follow-up. Bluntly put, if you don’t follow-up you have wasted your time. After meeting a new contact send a quick note with your contact information and let them know you enjoyed meeting them. If you promised information, send it as soon as possible.
If you joined an interest group, there may not be immediate follow-up, but make sure you stay involved. And, when you do have an assignment or project, do it as well as you would any paid gig.
Remember, networking has long-term benefits. If you are looking for immediate gains, try direct marketing.
Towanda Long aka The Café Lady