For many people, the thought of being thrown in a room with a bunch of unknown people and being told to “network” or “mingle” sends folks down a road of fear, misery, and dread. Or worse, trying to connect with people online or one on one.
Most of this dread is due to inexperience and not knowing the steps to successful networking. The five steps below will get you well on your way to learning how to be a pro at digital networking. And you won’t remember why you didn’t like it in the first place.
- Have a Strategy and a Plan.
- Decide What Kind Of Networking You Are Going To Do
- Warm And Cold Calling Or Emailing
Have a Strategy.
The first thing you want to do is identify why you want to network. Here are a few reasons people want to get over their fear of networking and learn how to do it right:
- Find a job.
- Find clients or customers for your business.
- Join or create a group of people who can help you grow your business.
- Meet colleagues to help you become more of an expert in your field.
- Meet people who you can tap for advice and develop professional relationships with.
Have A Plan.
This is different from your “why” This is your “how.” Your purpose will determine your specific means and steps, but here are a few universal networking plans that are sure to give you an advantage.
- Be positive. Your professional, upbeat attitude will help you. More people will want to meet you and will want to continue to connect with you.
- Have a 30 second elevator pitch when introducing yourself. Make it interesting. Practice it out loud in the mirror with facial expressions. You want to be engaging and make sure people know you love what you do, even if you are looking to change fields. First impressions are critical.
- If you do want to do something different than you are currently doing, that should be part of your introduction.
- Make sure you look professional and that your background looks neutral. Make sure your lighting makes you look your best and not too dark that it’s hard to see you or too bright, so you are washed out. Pets, kids, and other noise makers should be kept quiet and out of the way. Be prepared to talk about your field or yourself and take notes.
- If you choose a written platform, ensure your facts are correct.
- Try to steer clear of controversial subjects.
Decide What Kind Of Networking You Are Going To Do.
- Are you going to start with written platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter?
- Or do you want to go through your contact list and start calling people you know to see if they can put you in touch with others who can help you?
- Of course, there are all sorts of online networking chat groups and organizations you can join.
Networking Is Like Dating.
Sorry for those of you who don’t like dating, but it is a good comparison. Here are some good comparisons for you to think about:
- You won’t meet anyone new if you stay in your corner. Don’t be a wallflower. You must put yourself out there and meet new people.
- Most people are not going to be sold on you and vice versa upon the first meeting. It’s a get to know you, relationship-building process.
- If you show an interest in people, they will be more interested in you. Ask relevant questions and pay attention to the answers. Then you can meet up again.
- Follow up. No one likes to meet someone who seems interesting only to never hear from them again.
Warm And Cold Calling Or Emailing.
Last, but not least, one on one networking. If you target people who are within your professional groups that you don’t know or company department heads that you need to connect with, then one on one networking can help you. Also, you can connect with other people doing what you are doing or what you want to do. Here are some ways to do it:
- Call a friend or colleague and ask them if they know anyone in your field who could give you help or work. Ask if you can use their name.
- Look up your own LinkedIn and Facebook connections
- Go through your professional organization contact list to find people you can ask for advice.
- Join a professional organization if you do not belong to one. It is a great way to network.
- Once you have identified people you want to talk to, you can send an email to set up a call or a zoom session.
- Try not to set up more than two to three meetings per week.
- Be prepared. Make sure you study the person’s background and job and be prepared with questions. They will want to know how they can help you. Calls should be organized and go smoothly. Professionals are busy people.
Yes, networking is part work, but it is also part social. With the right mindset, tools, and preparation, you can turn it into “fun working”! It’s time to prepare and put yourself out there!