Even bright, educated professionals fear networking. While the majority of people can handle small talk without an issue, many worry that others will view them as a self-promoting salesperson when they try to network. Chances are you have been the victim of bad networking too. Someone engages you and then dives directly into their sales pitch. While exchanging information or services is ultimately the goal, building a meaningful and productive professional relationship requires more than a sales speech.
Next time a networking opportunity arises, consider these five tips to get the most from your efforts:
- Research: Prior to the event, find out who is attending, identify target connections, and plan what you will say to them. If colleagues and friends will be attending, let them know your goals and make plans to catch up with them another time. This will help you get the most from your time networking.
- Be genuine: Whether you are more comfortable introducing yourself in a group or one-on-one setting, do what makes you feel most at ease. It is also acceptable to stand back and listen, until you are more comfortable. Ultimately, you’ll find someone with whom you can have a natural and meaningful exchange.
- Protect your time: Consider attending events that attract like-minded people. Young professional groups are great if you are early in your career, while industry associations and philanthropic events that matter to you personally are also excellent options. If the event is a bust, make a gracious exit when an opportunity arises.
- Make a great first impression: Greet people with a warm smile and listen more than you talk. Always dress the part; you never know who you will meet. Be mindful of how you can help others and exchange business cards for follow-up purposes.
- Follow up within 24-hours: If you do not follow up after an event, consider your time wasted. It takes minimal effort to email someone and offer helpful information or advice. If you find more synergies, invite them for coffee to learn more. Chances are it will pay off.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be better positioned to cultivate meaningful professional relationships that benefit you and your new contacts.
For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly recruiting specialists can help, contact our team.