Professional networking can help your career in more ways than you can imagine. But there’s more to this art than just handing out business cards. Molly Triffin from LearnVest offers pro-tips on maximizing your networking effort. Some top tips are featured below.
Power Tip #1: Give Before You Receive
One of the biggest networking mistakes people make is jumping the gun when asking for a favor. One cardinal key to successful networking: Give before you can get.
“I can’t emphasize this enough—if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit,” says professional relationship development expert Keith Ferrazzi, author of “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.” “You usually bring a small gift to a dinner party, so why wouldn’t you offer a potential ally a token of generosity when you meet?”
Power Tip #2: Ask for a Strategic Introduction
If there’s a specific person you’re hoping to connect with, do some Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn sleuthing to see if you have a contact who knows that individual directly or at least knows someone who works for the same organization.
Explain your game plan to your contact—you’re a huge fan of the company and would love to build a strategic relationship with a such-and-such key player—and then ask if the person might be able to introduce you at an upcoming networking event.
Power Tip #3: Don’t Just Collect Cards
In the game of networking, you’re going for quality, not quantity—so simply focusing on beefing up your Rolodex will backfire.
Misner recalls meeting a young woman who claimed to be a pro networker. Her “brilliant” technique? She and her business partner would split the room in half, amassing as many business cards as possible. They’d then enter all the info into a database and email their new contacts. “Essentially, they’d spam people,” Misner says. “Using networking like a face-to-face cold-calling opportunity is a huge error.”
Power Tip #4: Follow Up—and Then Follow Up Again
After clicking with a powerful new connection, too many people drop the ball—failing to check in post-meeting and never leveraging the new relationship.
So try this strategy from Kim Marie Branch-Pettid, CEO, and president of LeTip International, a business networking, and referral organization. Immediately following a conversation with a person of interest, Branch jots down a number from one to 10 on the back of their business card, indicating their potential to help her advance in her career. For anyone who scores a seven or above, she adds a brief note about them, such as “trip to London, 3-year-old son, starting a new job.”
Networking isn’t about seeing what you can get from as many people as possible, it’s about building relationships in a mutual help group so everyone can get where they want to go. Remember, give before you get and you will be on the right path.