“The best way to get a job or meet prospective clients is by networking.”
“It’s who you know, not what you know!”
It’s true. Networking and knowing the right people can help you land the right job!
When I was laid off in December 2003, my company paid for 3 months at an outplacement service. Everyone was talking about networking, networking, networking – they even had a class on it!
I had no idea what networking was! Although I spent all my life in corporate, I never joined professional associations. I felt I spent enough time at the office away from my family!
When I started my business 4 1/2 years ago, I learned to network by joining a few women’s professional associations. Joining an industry group is a great way to stay current in your field and manage your career.
At first, I resented having to network to meet new people because I did not like the idea of having to schmooze with people I didn’t know. Being shy and not having a lot of confidence in those days, I actually would get anxious at the idea of going up to a stranger and introducing myself. For many, one mention of the word can evoke a strange visceral response: hands start to sweat, tongues go dry, and brains get fuzzy.
Sound familiar? Here are a few etiquette tips for productive networking:
· Arrive a little early and check out the pre-printed name tags to see if you know anyone.
· When entering the room, stand at the door for a few seconds, scope the room, stand up straight, and have a positive demeanor. If you see someone you know, approach them, smile, look them in the eye, and extend your hand. A firm and friendly handshake is a great way to make a terrific first impression.
· If you don’t know anyone, don’t rush to the bar for a drink! Look around, and find someone who looks as lost as you do. Introduce yourself. They will be grateful someone approached them!
· Always have your business cards with you, but don’t distribute them to everyone! Only exchange biz cards with someone when it will be of benefit to both of you. Do not give out your card unless someone asks for it.
· Do not barge into group conversations. If you do, do so sensitively. Approach the group and stand quietly for a few seconds. If no one looks at you, excuse yourself discretely.
· If you are talking to someone who is boring you to death, exit the conversation politely. Smile and move from the conversation by saying: “It was very nice talking to you.” Do not be rude. Do not make them feel bad. Remember, it’s all about being mindful of other people.
· After the event, follow up with new acquaintances. Sending a personal handwritten note will make the most impact if it is mailed within 24 to 48 hours. If you cannot find time to write a note, an email or a telephone call is appropriate.
· Always make sure you fulfill promises you made to people you’ve met.
· Get permission before sharing contact information. You may have met someone that you feel should meet a friend of yours. The best way to introduce these two people is to send both parties an email stating why you feel they should connect.
Conclusion: Practice makes perfect! The more you network, the more comfortable you will feel. One last word of caution: don’t go to an event thinking you are going to meet your next employer or your next client. People need to hear your name or see you seven times before they remember you! Be patient. It’s worth it!