Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Networking is about connecting people for mutual benefit. The highly social likely find it invigorating while the shy might dread the whole process. If you’re on the search for a new job or just want to build new connections, there are a few ways to prepare yourself ahead of time to get the most out of the networking process. Consider these three tips as you get into the process.
Do your homework before events. If you’re attending an in-person networking event, sometimes you can get a list of attendees before you go. If you can, this allows you to do your homework on the people who will be there. You can formulate questions to break the ice with people you want to talk to and make a good impression on them. If the event is virtual, you may be able to do the same research if you ask the organizer about a participant list.
Become masterful at conversation and building relationships. Standing in the corner and being a wallflower is wasting your time at a networking event. Make the most of your time by working on your small-talking skills, as this is always the first introduction to conversation at any event. Even though it’s called small “talking,” only 20% of a useful conversation is that. Eighty percent is listening, so work on your active listening skills, such as repeating back the first bit of someone’s answer to a question and asking open-ended questions like, “What did you think of the speaker’s presentation?”
Use your current network effectively. Networking is an activity you can do anywhere, anytime. You have a current network of contacts already and may not know it. Of course they are made up of your friends and family, but they are also the parents of your children’s friends, the family you sit next to in church, or even the person you say hello to in line at the BMV. Always be networking, and that will get you ahead no matter what your end goals are.
Doing your homework, working on conversation skills and genuinely connecting with people everywhere you go are easy ways to expand your networking efforts. When you do ask a connection for a lead, advice or some favor, make sure you return the same. Ask how you can help them with their goals as well. The network continues to expand this way, and you’ll have plenty of places to turn when you need assistance.