Networking can be tricky, especially if you're new to the game. If you're shy or a little introverted, it can be even more difficult. However, it's an easy way to get your foot in the door and make connections that can benefit you now and later on. Consider these tips to help become a networking master.
- Look for an introduction: One of the best ways to begin your networking path is to ask for an introduction from a good friend or colleague.1 That way, the hard part is taken care of. All you have to do is make a good impression and ask thoughtful questions.
- Do your research:Always come prepared. Before you travel to a career fair or expo, see who's expected to be at the event.2 Go on LinkedIn and look for a few members of the company who you think will be there. Look into their backgrounds and prior experiences. Having this knowledge at hand when you meet them can be very helpful. The information will help guide the conversation and allow you to ask more in-depth questions.
- Get personal: Share a personal story to make yourself more memorable to a new connection. There are multiple ways to do this. If there's a background behind an item of clothing or object that you have, share it. For example, the person compliments your shoes. You could just acknowledge the compliment with a simple thanks. Or, you could be interesting by sharing the story of how you got the shoes, which could lead to a connection. Regardless, it's a simple connection and an easy way to make yourself stand out.
- Practice makes perfect: The best networkers only got that way with a ton of practice. Going to one networking event is great, but you have to go to multiple. The more events you attend, the more comfortable you become and the higher your confidence soars.
- Listen: One of the best qualities you can have is to be a good listener. Even if you aren't born with these skills, you can work on them over time. After you ask a person a good question, it's just as important to hear what they're saying. You shouldn't be thinking about who else you could speak to at the event. If you pay attention, you're more likely to have better replies and greater chances for genuine conversation. Employers remember good discussions.
- Follow up: This is the most important step. Once you make a connection with someone, it's crucial to follow up. Otherwise, you've wasted your time. Write a follow-up email or make a call within two days of the initial connection. People tend to forget important details past 48 hours. That way, you can include specific details of the conversation you had.
Every connection is different, but they're all valuable and may be the help you need to potentially land a job. They also last a lifetime if you keep up with them. Over the years, you'll be blown away by the number of contacts you rack up and the good friends you make in the process.