Joining networking groups or attending events can be intimidating. It can be difficult to navigate introductions and conversations while making sure you’re leaving both a positive and memorable impression. So how can you get the most out of your time spent? Here are seven tips on how to network successfully.
Have a goal in mind
When joining an organization or going to an event, know what you want to get out of it. Are you hoping to make new contacts, strengthen existing connections, get your foot in the door of a certain company or industry? By having clear goals in mind, you can ensure your time networking is as beneficial as possible.
Some examples of goals are:
- Getting exposure to other professionals who may have helpful advice or connections
- Developing expertise in a certain niche by taking advantage of learning opportunities
- Learning about different roles of people who may work with in an industry
Keep conversation starters handy
Approaching new people can be daunting — one way to make the process easier is to have a few conversation starters on hand. Beyond standards like asking what someone does for a living or what brought them here, you can also read up on industry trends or news items to discuss. This way, you have multiple options to help you strike up a dialogue.
Some easy conversation starters are:
- So what did you think about [name of speaker at event]?
- What got you interested in [insert networking event topic]?
Pro tip: Getting to events early is a good way to meet the other early birds and start a group — rather than walking into an event where everyone is already grouped up.
Practice active listening
When people talk, they want to know that the person they’re speaking to is engaged in what they’re saying, rather than simply waiting for their turn to speak. Reference or ask follow-up questions about things they mention during the conversation, and use non-verbal cues like nodding or smiling to convey that you’re listening. This is a two-way street, so avoid dominating the discussion.
Ask for help or advice
Networking is a great chance to gain insights and advice from other industry professionals. Maybe you’d like tips on how to expand your connections or strengthen your resume. Perhaps you’d like to know more about career trajectories in the field. Don’t shy away from asking for any advice or knowledge someone can share. And on the other hand, always be ready to help out others as well!
Some easy ways to open the conversation about getting help and mentorship include:
- Asking directly about how to get into a specific industry
- Asking a person how they specifically got started or got their foot in the door at their company
- Ask what other events they find helpful to attend, or what tools they used to hone their skills
Write notes after important conversations
When networking, you’ll encounter various people and have several different chats. If you meet someone you want to follow up with later or who shares some valuable information, make a note after the conversation ends. This way, you won’t risk forgetting details later and will be able to showcase that you were actively listening to what people were saying.
When you send the follow up message, include where and when you met them, and some conversation details so they can easily remember you.
Follow up with people you meet
Remember that the purpose of networking is both to make and to maintain connections. After all, that initial introduction won’t be much use if you don’t speak to them again. Reach out after the event to let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them, and be sure to contact them again every once in a while to bring up relevant news, updates, or questions.
Here’s a simple template:
It was nice to meet you at [Event Name]. I am the [provide a description of yourself] from [place you live or current company name]. We talked about [what you talked about]. I’d love to [insert invitation to activity, e.g. grab coffee] and continue our conversation.
Keep attending networking opportunities
As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. The more you put yourself out there and use networking opportunities, the easier it will become. Over time, you’ll become more confident in your introduction and conversation skills — ultimately putting your best foot forward and making a good impression on the people you meet!
In the end, make sure you are having fun, trying different approaches and seeing what works best. It can be scary to put yourself out there, but there is nothing to lose and there are so many opportunities to be had!