Networking is important to growing professionally in your career. But ultimately, it can be a hard skill to master — and doing it incorrectly could hurt your network instead of helping it.
Here are six tips for networking the right way so you get the most out of your networking opportunities.
1. Focus on relationships, not the number of business cards you hand out.
When meeting someone for the first time, make a memorable connection. It could be your line of business, like the medical field, or you might share some other personal connection, like a sports team you both root for. Regardless of the common thread, it’s important to try and stand out somehow. If all you do is hand out business cards, then your card will likely end up forgotten in a stack.
2. Don’t ask for a favor — have a conversation first.
In addition to making yourself memorable, it’s important to have a real, meaningful conversation. It can be professional or personal, but it needs to be real. If the person you’re talking to is an authority figure, you might be tempted to ask them immediately for a favor. Don’t. Not in the first conversation. Focus on simply making a solid connection instead.
3. Help people before you ask them to help you, and don’t ask for anything in return.
People are much more likely to remember you positively if you’ve done something helpful for them in the past — particularly if you place no unnecessary expectations for reciprocation. Don’t keep score, and don’t hold them to having to help you next time. Offer to help if you can and expect nothing in return
4. Connect with people in your same field or industry.
When networking, the ultimate goal is to make connections with people who intersect with your work somehow. You are far more likely to make a memorable connection with someone who shares your professional interests. Before you go to any networking opportunity, research who might be at the event and identify common interests that you can talk about when you meet that person.
5. Be genuine.
Regardless of your professional aspirations, it’s dehumanizing to use people for their position or what they can do for you. Foster professional relationships with people whom you genuinely like, and don’t just use someone for their professional status.
6. Alumni networks are your friend.
Don’t ignore fellow alumni in your search for network-worthy professionals. For example, Ultimate Medical Academy boasts a strong network of more than 30,000 students and alumni, and the institution has an Alumni Association designed specifically to connect graduates. Your classmates are people who can help you navigate the professional world and understand your situation, because they’ve gone through similar things.
Networking is key to succeeding professionals, but doing it wrong can hurt your chances. Make sure to use these tips the next time you’re at a networking event, and let us know how it goes!