Knowing how to effectively network is key to building professional relationships. In today’s crowded job market, the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” couldn’t ring more true. But what are the steps to building that initial foundation? How do you become an effective networker?
Remember, It’s Quality Over Quantity
When you walk into a networking event, your goal isn’t to meet everyone in the room—at least it shouldn’t be.
Before arriving, sort through the attendee list and jot down the names of three or four people you want to connect with. Next to each name, write go-to talking points; it could be news you recently read about them, a mutual connection, or similar interests the two of you share.
Building genuine relationships is critical to networking, and you won’t do that if your goal is to meet everyone in the room. Actively listen, engage in conversation, and allow yourself the time to discover the value each attendee brings to the table. The person to your left might not have “chief” or “manager” in his or her title, but he or she could have a valuable connection or information you never knew you needed until you stopped for more than five minutes to listen.
Know the Value You Bring to the Table
Networking goes both ways. Be aware of the strengths and skill sets you bring to a conversation. If you need inspiration, turn to the event agenda. For example, if you are attending a marketing conference and there’s a panel on search engine optimization—your specialty—make that known. That value you are looking for in others they are looking for in you.
Have Your Elevator Pitch Ready
Avoid rambling when you first meet someone by having your 30-second elevator pitch committed to memory. It should include the name of your company, your company’s function, and the role you play in the business.
Related: How to Ace Your Next Phone Interview
Once you start actively listening, you will be able to pick up on people’s strengths and how they relate to others’ in the room. If you think two attendees could benefit from each other’s skill sets and knowledge, introduce them. The small act will show you can bring big value to your newfound business contact.
Ask, “How Can I Help You?”
Another way to make a favorable first impression is by asking, “How can I help you?” Before requesting any favors, show your willingness to build a mutually beneficial relationship. Nobody wants to feel like the help is only going one way. Although the contact might not “need” anything right then, that generosity will leave an impression and provide you with a way to say, “Let me give you my business card in case anything comes to mind.”
Follow Up and Through
Within 24 hours of the networking event, follow up to ensure your new connections remember you. An email with a simple “hello” and short reminder of what the two of you talked about is all that is necessary. If the two of you discussed a particular action item, such as you making an introduction, follow through on that promise within the same time frame.
Maintain Your Network
Once you have your network built, maintain it. Set aside time every month or two to reconnect with your contacts. If one updates his or her job title on LinkedIn or a contact’s name appears in the news, use that as a reason to reach out and say “hello.”
If “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” ensure who you know remembers you.