Networking Not Working? Tips for Success
In today’s world, “networking” usually connotes being active on social media. It’s posting to LinkedIn, keeping updated on Facebook, and tweeting about your activities. However, to grow your business, advance your career or expand your network, there is still no replacement for the old-fashioned “meet ’em and greet ’em” approach.
In-person networking can be beneficial, depending on your goals, or it can be a colossal waste of time. Just showing up somewhere and hoping you will run into the person who realizes what a great employee you’d be and offers you a package on the spot is probably an exercise in futility. Stranger things have happened, but it’s best to have a plan for leveraging a networking event.
Consider these four tips to making networking work for you:
(1) Just because it’s called a “networking event” doesn’t mean it’s the right networking event for you. Networking events are most decidedly not created equal. Find out who will be attending and what the goal of the event is. If it’s purely networking, realize that everyone there will be trying to meet and greet. If it’s an event with a different purpose, but opportunities to network will exist during the event, be sure you are interested in the topic and the kind of people it will likely draw.
(2) Have a goal for what you want to accomplish. Are you hoping to just practice your personal pitch or your elevator speech? Are you hoping to make contacts for a future career move? Are you looking for a buyer – or a seller – of something? Do you want to just become more confident in your interpersonal skills? Know what you expect to get out of the event and establish your success criteria in advance.
(3) Ask much and listen even more. While you may think that the whole point is to “pitch” yourself or your services, you want to learn as much about who is there and who you are speaking to as you can. Is the person a qualified candidate for you to do business with at some point? Are they going to be interested in you and what you do? The fastest way to get someone interested in you is to show an interest in them. And don’t just ask the basic “Where do you live and what do you do?” questions. Ask things like “What do you like best about your work?” “How did you decide living (in this town, or this city) was right for you and your family?” “How do you make decisions about which events like this you will attend, and which you will skip?” Get the person to reveal something about themselves and learn, learn, learn.
(4) Extricate yourself politely from useless conversations. Let’s face it, you probably aren’t at the event to make friends. You likely have a goal to either sell something, advance your career or make useful contacts. You may get stuck talking to someone who bores you or isn’t your cup of tea! It’s hard and can seem rude to say “I need to go refresh my drink,” so when you want to close the conversation, ask the person whether they are on LinkedIn, or if you have talked about their company or a charity they like, what the URL is for it. Close out by saying, “I will follow up and learn more online (or follow up and send you an invitation to connect)” and then say, “It was really nice talking with you.” Bring the conversation to a close instead of leaving the person thinking you are going to return to talk some more.
It’s true that networking can lead to long-term relationships, and can expand your sphere of influence in some cases. And in many cases the people you are talking to are also sizing you up to determine if you can be useful to them or not, and the conversations may lead nowhere. It’s really important to know what you want to accomplish from the networking and to set reasonable goals. Your time is precious, and you want to use it in the best ways possible for your long-term success.
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About Beverly D Flaxington
Beverly D. Flaxington, the Human Behavior Coach ™ is a two-time bestselling and Gold-award winning author, is an international speaker, an accomplished consultant, hypnotherapist, personal and career coach, bestselling author, college professor, corporate trainer, facilitator, behavioral expert, entrepreneur and business development expert. Beverly’s knowledge of human behavior and the most effective ways to make change…