People love to say, “It’s all about who you know,” when discussing professional development.
And though it’s been around forever, this sentiment is incomplete, at least in today’s world. Landing a great job or building up a career is often made through great networking practices and techniques that communicate values and insights to your peers. Perhaps, then, it’s not about who you know, but rather how you know who you know. Let’s take a look at three essential steps to anyone looking to network in business.
Developing Your Networking Style
It might sound a bit like marketing-speak, but at its core, professional networking is another important form of personal branding. Brand is really a conversation, just the same as the expo-floor small talk that scored you a sit-down with a new employer or client. So, it makes sense that your approach to networking be rooted equally in staying true to yourself.
That does sound pretty Zen but developing a networking style that feels comfortable and personal is anything but simple, and it’s safe to say it’s going to take some time. There some tried and trusted approaches to engaging with people that can help set you up for success in growing a network.
- You’ve got to go to them. Don’t expect people to contact you to see if you want or need anything.
- Listening is just as important as talking. Maybe more! Use Active listening techniques to improve your understanding and general interactions, even online.
- It’s what you say AND how you say it. It’s easy to spot someone armed with bravado while being light on substance. Try to make both parts of your pitch equal.
- Don’t put off a follow up, it’s part of the pitch. A networking interaction never ends at a handshake. Start fostering the relationship right away with a timely reintroduction.
Networking doesn’t have to be a specific, focused, or strategized interaction. Instead, it can be so personalized it simply becomes shorthand for good communication.
Public Event Networking
Love them or not, professional expos are one of your best chances for face-to-face time with the people you need the most. Data published by Bizago showed that 84% of business leaders believe in-person events are critical to their success, meaning a lot of effort is placed into these gatherings. As you maneuver between crowded floor spaces and busy booths, it becomes obvious that making a new contact for your network will mean approaching another stranger just to say hello. But once the social anxiety of breaking into a conversation passes, the question is what will you say about yourself? And how will you say it?
Context plays a big part in any communication style. Just as you wouldn’t want to yell to a friend in a quiet library, you don’t want to approach a casual social hour with the intense vigor of an elevator pitch. Many of these folks are people you’ve never met, so how can your networking leave a good lasting impression?
- Do your research. Knowing details like your industry demographics and the people at an event can help you to refine your messaging and voice.
- Participation is required. You attended this conference to meet people. Going to more events gives you a chance to interact and engage with more folks.
- Ask questions first, ask questions later. Research from Harvard Business Review found that not only do people respond better to questions in conversation, they like you more. Try asking follow-up questions, the data shows they have the best response.
- Did you follow up yet? Seriously, though, this is important. Always do this.
Public networking events can feel like a junior high school dance. It’s loud, there’s always music, it inexplicably smells like floor polish and french fries, and you’ve got anxiety. But by remaining confident, putting yourself out there, and remembering to make it appealing to talk with you, these things can feel more like you’re the belle of the ball.
Social Media Tips
It’s no secret that social media has become the primary meeting place for anyone looking for networking. The instant and digital connections are far-reaching and help to grow your brand beyond geographical trade show hall exit doors. A recent statistic from CareerArc shows that 91% of employers are using these social platforms to find their employees. The flipside? With everyone in such a crowded place, you’ve got to go further to set yourself apart.
While it’s still just a form of communicating, networking via social media has its own unique wrinkles. These are sites and apps with technical requirements, and missing them could actually prevent your posts from getting to the right people. Even though we’re all a superstar online, it’s a good idea to keep your notepad out with these steps on the page.
- What site are you even on? Each of these sites have different vibes. You’re not going to want a Facebook status posted on a Linkedin wall.
- Maintain that quality control! Consistency is ever-important, so be sure the post schedule and content types are similar in planning.
- Use DMs to schedule a professional meeting. Chatting online might be comfortable, but the more professional approach is to offer chances to speak in-person or over the phone.
- Did you…follow up yet? Well?
Networking plays a big role in developing your personal brand and salesability. But instead of treating the interactions as a systematic sales pitch, make sure to stay comfortable and sincere, just the same way you would with a new friend. By thinking critically about your branding, focusing on personal interactions in public events, and using social media efficiently, you can quickly grow that ever-important list of who you know.