Becoming a great networker is a skill that may not come as naturally as you think. It takes time to learn how to make a lasting impression while at the same time, not come on too strong. To really master the art of networking, you’ll have to learn how to get out of your comfort zone, try to new things and talk to new people, all while staying true to yourself and knowing what you do best. It takes patience and lots of practice to learn what methods are most effective and yield the greatest return. That being said, we have a few tips to set you off on the right foot when it comes to planting your networking seeds in order to have the best harvest down the road.
While networking events can be useful, one has to realize that most people are there for the same reasons: to build connections, get a job, make a sale, etc. Most people at those events want something or other. Instead, there are thousands of other ways to meet amazing people and build strategic relationships! Interning, volunteering, or doing freelance or consulting work can be a great way to get to know new people. But not everything you do had to be business related. Do you go to the gym? To church? Travel often? It’s simple- the more stuff you do, the more opportunities you’ll have to meet new people and build some awesome relationships!
Also read: How to Build Your Resume While in College
Like we said before, networking events can be useful but most people there are looking to get something out of them. Not a bad thing. But if you walked up to someone, had a 5 minute conversation and then handed them your business card, how likely do you think they would be to do you a favor a month or two down the road (or even remember you)? Going back to our point about being sincere, one of the best ways to show that you’re interested in the people you meet, is to help them with something! Unless the person you meet works in exactly the same industry and has done exactly the same thing for exactly as long as you, you probably could teach each other a thing or two. Why not offer to meet over coffee to talk about work? If they’re struggling with something work or business related and you know a way to help or even someone else you could introduce them to, do it! Being helpful is a great way for any person to show their human side and make a lasting impression on a person! It shows that you’re not just out to help yourself, but you’re actually somewhat of a decent person as well. Besides this, lending a helping hand can also give a great impression that you’re resourceful and, for lack of a better word, smart. Leaving people with that is way more effective than just handing them a business card.
Get out of your comfort zone, maybe
Now that we’ve stated the above, we might as well talk about the elephant in the room (or on the screen?). Networking is going to mean getting out of your comfort zone. Now, especially for you introverts out there, that doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be something you’re not. If the thought of walking into a room full of strangers makes you want to bury your head in the sand, we’re talking to you. Networking isn’t only an extrovert’s game. Who’s to say that your best connection isn’t an introvert himself/herself? So while networking will mean meeting new people in new places, there are vastly different ways to handle this so that both extroverts and introverts feel like they’re at their best.
For the introverts:
I love Rebekah Campbell’s advice here (she’s a startup founder and introvert) where she talks about networking as an introvert. Does she attend networking events? Sure. But she does it in her own way. Instead of walking up to a stranger and starting a dynamic conversation out of thin air, she makes sure she shakes hands with the person, learns their name and gets their business card and says she’ll follow up later. And she does! Later she’ll ask the person to meet over coffee so she and her new acquaintance can talk about her or their business in a quieter, one on one setting (can you feel the introverted sigh of relief)? So yes, Rebekah makes the effort to go out of her way to make strategi relationships, but she carries on and develops those relationships in a genuine way that makes sense for her.
All this to say, if you’re an introvert, it’s important to understand what you’re good at and where you feel most comfortable. If it’s giving a formal, rehearsed presentation and answering questions at the end, do that. If one on one conversations are more your thing, no need to feel like you’re the odd one out. Simply be intentional about the relationships you make and make sure that they are special and worth while in the long run.
For the extroverts:
While the thought of networking might not make an extrovert sweat like it does an introvert, don’t you worry, introvert, they have their own set of struggles to overcome.
If you’re an extrovert, striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know might seem like no big deal. Which is great! But extroverts may have tendencies to forget some important things while they’re making a new connection.
In his Medium post on networking, Nicolas Cole talks about the art of listening “because not many people do it.” He says, “People are so used to being met with the feeling of ‘I’m waiting for you to finish speaking so I can talk again’ that when someone comes along who listens intently to every word they say, they just keep going and going and going — and, […] they see you as a friend.”
I mean, it makes sense that if you attend a networking event to gain something, you’d have to stop talking at some point, right?
And while boldness and confidence can be attractive, it’s important to know yourself, gage the room (or the circle with whom you’re talking) and know if/when you’re coming on too strong. This goes back to not only to listening but having the emotional intelligence (or EQ) to perceive when a person might not be picking up what you’re laying down. Not everyone you meet will be a great contact for you or your company and knowing when to put your energy into a relationship and when to move on can save you lots of time and frustration in the future!
Remember their name
Sure, this is kind of obvious. Everyone likes it when someone remembers their name. Then why do we always let it go in one ear and out the other?
The honest truth is that we often end up overlooking or just waiting to get past an introduction because we’re trying to get to the meat of the conversation. Sure, the actual topic of conversation in important, but just as important is how you make the person you’re talking to feel. Like we said before, everyone likes to hear their own name.
In his advice on remembering names, Patrick Ewers says that it’s important to “Commit to the moment of introduction.” In other words, say to yourself, “I am going to remember this person’s name.” Then take actionable steps towards that. Things like repeating the person’s name back to them to make sure you got it right, write it down, associate their name with their occupation or with someone you already know with the same name, etc.
While remembering someone’s name is extremely simple, it says a lot about your intentionality and your ability to care about the person you’re talking to, something they’re bound to notice.
Remembering names and becoming a pro at introductions is great, but it’s never going to mean much if you’re not able to turn that into a productive relationship in the future. Just like any friendship or dating relationship, building business contacts takes investment and intention. You’ll need to keep notes on the people you meet, the things you talked about, and then check in with them from time to time if you’re not already regularly interacting with them. This is where remembering a person’s name will be at its greatest value. Beyond that, you’ll want to remember the struggles or triumphs a person may have mentioned to you in earlier conversations. Remembering these things can give you a great reason (excuse?) to catch up because you can ask them how that thing they mentioned before is going and if they could use you help with anything (remember point #2). Forbes advises to “Give first, expect nothing in return.” By following up, remembering little details, and giving your own time, you’re paving your way to make a lasting and positive impression to anyone within your network.
Have a business card
While you might think that business cards are just for business owners or high-up execs, but anyone in any business can make use of having their own business card. Whether you attend a formal networking event or strike up a conversation at the dentist, having a business card is an effortless way to help someone remember who you are, your skillset or line of work, and give them a straightforward way to get in contact with you. And with many companies offering free templates and extremely inexpensive prices for printing, there’s really no excuse to keep a few in your wallet at all times, you know, just in case.
Pro tip: Always be sure to take their card, too. You can’t rely on someone to reach out to you, but you be proactive in reaching out others!
Ever been to a networking event? What did you love about it and what did you hate about it? What is your go-to tip for remembering someone’s name? Share your tips in the comments below and share the post with the person you’d drag to the networking event with you!