The ABCs of Networking

Tips for networking effectively

Tips for networking effectively

I recently attended an alumni networking event with a co-worker, and amidst the free drinks and business card exchanges, I was reminded of the value in networking. It’s all too easy to stay within the bubble of your office buddies and long-time industry friends; networking can be fun, but it is work – and it doesn’t always yield immediate results.

The best approach to building out your network is to seek out opportunities all the time – not just when you’re on the search for a new career opportunity, looking to boost sales or need some outside counsel. So next time you see your alma mater sponsors a cocktail hour, or a friend invites you to happy hour with his co-workers, seize the opportunity and remember the ABC’s of networking:

Always Bring Cards

It seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to scribble my information down on a cocktail napkin or promise to send a LinkedIn invitation. If business cards are a little bit too “analog” for you, consider using an app like CardMunch. I’ll preface this by saying that sticking someone’s business card in your back pocket is a lot less intrusive – and reliable – than digging out your iPhone and waiting for an app to load.

Always Be Circulating

We’re all guilty of going to a networking event and sticking with our friends and co-workers all night. Separate yourself from the herd or or grab one (JUST one) buddy and venture forth. It can be scary to initiate a conversation with a stranger, so give yourself three seconds to walk up to someone, smile and start with, “Hi, my name is…” You’re both there to meet new people, so the rest will come together easily.

Always Be Captivated

You should have a general idea of what you’re looking to get out of a networking session – a possible mentor, a new career opportunity, or maybe a sales lead. However, don’t confuse this with having an agenda. If you have a sore throat the end of the night from talking too much, you’re doing it wrong. The best way to network is to listen as much as you talk, ask questions, and be genuinely interested. (Nothing irks me more than someone looking over my shoulders for the next person to speak with.) This is the most effective way to know who can – and who can’t – help you meet your goals.

Always Buy Cocktails

I don’t mean this in the literal sense – what’s in your cup is not my business. However, having a drink – even water – gives you something to hold, which can help reduce fidgeting and nerves. Plus, refills give you a reason to excuse yourself from a lagging conversation.

Ask Before Calling

Unless you’re the event organizer, it’s always a good idea to confirm with an attendee that they’re comfortable with you following up with them after an event. Typically a business card exchange is a good enough confirmation, but this particularly applies to events where attendee lists are given out. No one wants to be bombarded with sales calls and other requests after an event.

By keeping these 5 networking tips in mind, you should have no problem building out your network and finding that next mentor, job or sales lead. Just remember your ABC’s, and good luck!

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