7 Ways to Network Like the Pros

Female Woman Sitting At Interview

Networking can be such a daunting word. For some, the thought of self-promotion and cozying up to strangers all in an effort to get ahead in their careers is intimidating work. These days, however, the career experts will tell you that networking is, for the most part, essential. But if it’s not exactly your forte, how should you go about doing it? We chatted with some experts to get their personal tips on the best ways to network (as well as what to absolutely not do).

Step 1: Create a strategy

How it helps: Figuring out your objectives for the event prior to attending will help you focus on accomplishing them once you’re there, says Trevor Simm, founder and president of employment and staffing agencies OpalStaff and Talos Solutions. For example, common objectives during a networking event might include handing out a certain number of business cards, meeting and connecting with certain people you know will be there, or spending X number of hours at the event. “Always be sure that you have enough leave-behinds, like business cards,” says Simm. “And be sure that the information on them is current and up to date. Also make sure that whatever you leave behind matches what is posted about you elsewhere, like on LinkedIn, your company site, Twitter, etc.”

Step 2: Drop the elevator pitch

How it helps: If part of your strategy for a networking event is to create an elevator pitch for your goals, you might want to reconsider. “We’ve all had the awkward experience of delivering and/or hearing a rehearsed elevator pitch,” says Kristi Daniels, an executive career coach and founder of Thrive 9 to 5, LLC. “We’re humans, not automated recordings. When you’re passionate about what you do and why you’re there, you don’t have to rehearse anything.”

Step 3: Perfect the art of networking conversation

How it helps: Networking events are all about conducting meaningful conversations with people, which takes some thoughtful consideration. For example, Jennifer Lynn Robison, Esquire, CEO of Purposeful Networking, suggests never starting a conversation at a networking even by asking people what they do. “Try to ask something like, ‘What projects are you working on?’ ‘How has your day been?’ or ‘How did you get into your industry?’” she said. “These are more open-ended questions that will promote meaningful discussion. If talking doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s also okay to prepare some talking points ahead of time and to have a cheat sheet in your car or purse to review before you go in.”

Joan Tremblay, a communication expert and career development consultant, trainer and coach, also recommends remembering people’s names when meeting them (use an association strategy, if necessary), and spending the majority of the time listening and acknowledging. “People who just talk about themselves are boring,” she said. “People find people interesting who are interested in them.”

Step 4: Go with a partner

How it helps: Especially if attending events on your own makes you nervous, bringing along a professional partner is a great idea. “Go to the event with a strategically selected partner — someone who is not a competitor but targets the same customers as you,” says Victor Clarke, owner of Clarke, Inc. an integrated print, web and digital marketing solutions firm. “Stop and introduce your partner to customers and acquaintances, and they will do likewise. This approach is much more informal than cold calling strangers and it will leave your address book groaning under the strain of new contacts.”

Step 5: Be genuine

How it helps: The most effective networking happens when you’re at your most genuine, says Sam McIntire, founder of online learning platform Deskbright. “Be honest and sincere in all your interactions with people, particularly at professional events,” said McIntire. “Feel free to talk about things other than your job — you’d be surprised how many high-quality and enduring connections you can make by discussing things that aren’t work-related.”

Step 6: Be persistent

How it helps: While you’re busy being genuine, it also helps to be persistent. “If you want something from someone, don’t expect them to drop everything else on their plate and help you out,” McIntire added. “People are busy, and it often takes a couple of tries to get your message through. Be polite but persistent in your actions, particularly if an important contact or connection isn’t responding to or following up on your emails. Send a gentle reminder of what you want, and how giving it to you will be beneficial for all involved.”

Step 7: Listen to your instincts

How it helps: In most cases, your instincts are usually spot on, and a networking event is no different. “If you feel it is important to ask questions, do so,” says Froswa’ Booker-Drew, PhD, author of Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last. “If it doesn’t feel as if it is going anywhere, pay attention to that feeling, as well.”

It’s also important to remember that not everyone can be on their game at every single networking event, so don’t necessarily write off one not-so-stellar interaction as a total loss. “It just might not be good timing,” says Dr. Booker-Drew. “Continue the relationship and keep in touch. You never know what might happen in the future.”

The post 7 Ways to Network Like the Pros appeared first on MagnifyMoney.