By Anthony D’Aconti
Most professionals approach networking with a simple goal: meet and connect with other like-minded people. While the core objective is to expand your network, there’s more hidden beneath the surface of a valuable networking opportunity.
Approach networking with a strategic mindset and you can reap rewards far beyond a list of email contacts and LinkedIn followers. Here’s six tips to help you make the most of networking.
1. Learn from observation.
Networking is like a think-tank: there’s nothing you can’t learn from other like-minded professionals. Walk into a networking environment with an observational mindset, ready and willing to let others reinforce what works best for you – and help you to improve in the areas that don’t. Networking is an empowering experience that encourages peer learning. You might be surprised how much you can learn with a simple fly on the wall mentality.
2. Be nimble. Be active.
In a networking environment you can either be active or passive – there’s not much middle ground. The most successful networkers are quick on their feet, ready to respond and interact at a moment’s notice. If you’re not nimble and active in a networking scenario, then what are you? Chances are other professionals will receive your passiveness as disinterest, limiting your potential to effectively communicate and collaborate. Treat networking as you would any other area of business. Always be ready.
3. Bring a notepad.
There are multiple advantages of taking notes in a networking scenario. First, good note-taking improves retention. Networking is one of the most effective ways to gather the type of intelligence you never want to forget. Taking diligent notes means you can walk away confident that the most important information remains fresh in your mind. People who take notes in a networking scenario also leave a good impression on the other professionals. It’s a great way to get noticed, which is important when you’re looking to open the doors to more connections.
4. Market your personal brand.
Products and services have a brand – but so do you as a networking professional. You possess unique ideas and an identity unlike any other professional. There are character traits, skill sets and a wealth of knowledge that separates you from everyone else in the room. Everything you do leaves a personalized experience behind. Just as every brand wishes to leave an impact, so do you. That’s why it’s important to market your personal brand – so that people will remember you. Try to avoid complete self-promotion but at the same time seize the opportunity to unleash your identity. Walk away giving people something to remember you by.
5. Continue the conversation.
There’s no reason to limit valuable dialogue and exchange to just one networking session. By taking the lead to continue the conversation, you promote the long-term relationships that form invaluable networking opportunities down the road. Send a follow-up email. Connect on social media. Send out an invite to reconnect at lunch. You can only learn so much in one networking situation. Always look for opportunities to continue the conversation.
6. Take a leadership position.
Who has the most power to seize a valuable networking opportunity? You do. That’s why you must take a leadership position. What do all great leaders do? Hold themselves accountable. What are the next steps in the pipeline after meeting with like-minded professionals? Who is in charge of setting up the next meeting? What types of outcomes and results are expected? Approach networking with the mentality of not only a leader but also a project manager. Every piece of the puzzle plays an important role only you can define. Step up to the plate and you can build the momentum that takes networking to unlimited heights.
Thanks, Anthony, for the NTLB guest post!
Featured photo: John Aslund (Flickr)