Networking is dead. Said no one ever. My first job at Dairy Queen – I got it because my sister worked there before me and did a great job. My second job at JC Penney – I got it because my older friend worked there and put in a good word for me. My third job as a student assistant in the Dean’s office – I got it because I was a part of the scholarship program that the Dean supported and he needed someone to help out in his office. This pattern has continued into my professional career. Connections. It’s all about the connections.
As I find myself back in the job seeker saddle, I am going to share 4 networking tips that can help you expand your network and get the connections you want and need.
Design a Noticeable Business Card
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to effectively network, it’s important to do a little bit of pre-work before you begin the networking process. You need to invest in business cards. Yes, of course everyone has business cards, but I want you to make sure to share your unique story through the business cards.
What do I mean? A few ways that you can choose to be creative and tell your personal story include:
- Designing a uniquely-shaped or unconventional sized business card (i.e. Want to work at a beauty brand? Make your cards lipstick or mouth-shaped)
- Having a QR code that links to some of the best projects in your portfolio (check out the one above – you won’t be disappointed!)
- Writing a 1-2 sentence tagline instead of having 5-6 bullets written out (i.e. “A social media marketing expert with 5 years experience managing online marketing campaigns with a proven record of ROI through SEO optimization”).
I recommend using a free design software, Canva to create your business card design. On the front side, have the basics (name, professional title, email, phone number, LinkedIn URL). Save the front and back designs as image files. Then go to a business card website and upload the images to see a mockup of your future business card. This Lifehacker article lists 5 great options for websites where you can order business cards.
Have 2 No-Prep Conversation Starters In Your Pocket
Having value-added conversations that lead to new connections is the big goal of networking, but what exactly should you be talking about?
Before you start talking to anyone, make sure you’re in the right mindset to meet new people and share about yourself. You are at an event to meet new people. I previously wrote about having presence in this blog post – take a couple minutes to get centered, focused, and feeling ready to meet new faces. I can’t stress enough how essential being present throughout networking conversations is in showing your interest and getting the most out of your networking experience.
Ask an Ice Breaker
When you first meet someone, smile and shake their hand. It’s nice to gradually get into a higher-level conversation by having some small-talk first. To break the ice, ask the person you just met about their story (who they are and what they do), and then share the same about you. Connecting with someone you’re chatting with on a personal level and realizing similarities and common interests really helps build credibility and trust early on in a networking relationship.
It’s no surprise that people love talking about themselves. Ask the person you’re networking with how they heard about the event or what brought them there. Make sure to lean in, smile, and do non-verbal signals like nodding your head in agreement while holding strong eye contact.
Create A Call to Action
While conversing, figure out how you can add value to each other – maybe it’s sharing a new connection, a possible job opportunity, setting up a meeting for a potential sale, getting introduced to an industry leader or a mentor, etc. Be sure to leave the conversation with a call-to-action (i.e. “It would be great to get your perspective on the discussion topics for the panel I’m facilitating next month. Let’s schedule a call next week”, or “Tomorrow I’ll talk to the head of the marketing department to see what opportunities are currently available or coming up the pipeline and will email you what I find out by the end of the day.”).
Of course, be sure to exchange your prized business cards before you part ways.
Do the Follow-up
Having a call-to-action isn’t worth anything if you don’t actually follow up. Send an e-mail within 48 hours of meeting your new connection. Tell them how nice it was to meet them and remind them how you can both provide value to each other. The initial conversation should be just the beginning of a new relationship. It’s smart to send short check-in emails to your connections every few months to keep the connection strong and to keep you at the top of their mind when something interesting or potentially valuable comes up.
And that’s how to get started networking in-person like a pro! I will say that the more you put yourself out there to network, the easier and more natural it becomes. Since I’m currently job searching, I have a goal to go to at least 3 networking events a month, but even if I did have a job I’d like to go to at least 1 networking event a month. The more you network, the more people you have rooting for ya!
How often are you networking? What helpful tips do you incorporate that I missed? Share in the comments below.