You’ve probably heard it said a million times before: Advancing your career is as much about who you know as it is what you know.
And this is why being an active networker and building business relationships are crucial to long-term success.
Contrary to popular misconception, networking is not about handing out scores of business cards. It is about making a real connection with the people you meet so that they remember you and are motivated to stay in touch with you after the event is over. In order to do this, you must make a lasting impression.
Of course, you are not going to be able to be instant best friends with all the professionals you meet when networking. Despite this, you still need to move beyond the basics of networking and make certain that you get remembered as more than a person who handed out a business card at an event.
At the next event you attend, you can try the following tips to make connections that will pay off:
You need to relax and be yourself. You are obviously likable, interesting and have a lot to say given the opportunity – just ask your friends. Therefore, instead of getting into a conversation in which you are struggling to find the right words or worrying that you will not be interesting enough, pretend that you are having a conversation with your friends over dinner and be yourself.
It will possibly sound silly, but a great way to feel comfortable being yourself is to always wear clothes that make you feel great. Wearing something you like will help you remain relaxed and comfortable. If you wear something just because social convention dictates that you do so, this could lead to you coming out as buttoned up.
Do not be afraid to open up to the people that you have met for only a little bit. Many people tend to put on strictly business faces when they are in a networking environment. Even though it is vital to remain professional, sharing some personal information about yourself is always a great way to start making deeper, lasting connections.
This in itself automatically makes you more memorable and relatable. It opens the door for future interesting conversations.
You need to understand that the moment you reveal something personal about yourself, you have given the other individual consent to do the same. Taking this risk to be vulnerable will draw more people to you as you will seem real.
Even though you want to share personal information about yourself, do not make the conversation all about you. People like talking about themselves and their lives. Therefore, if you happen to be shy, you will need to ask questions that can get other people to open up.
You have to go beyond the basics of “How do you find it working at your current company?” and “What motivated you to get into that field or that career?”.
Even though these are great conversation starters, they will not make you very memorable. Instead, ask questions that can disarm your fellow conversationalists a bit.
A creative way to accomplish this is to be specific in your conversation- even if it means that you have to be random so as to do it. An alternative will be to ask for advice from the people that you are conversing with at the networking events.
You will find that people tend to relax and share more information when you position your networking conversation go-to’s like, “How did you get into the advertising field?”. Such a question solicits the personal advice of the person you are conversing with. He or she will end up providing you with tips that can help you be more successful in your field.
Lastly, a good way to make a connection that will last is to assist where you can. If you can offer some expertise, a piece of advice or make an introduction to a contact, people will always be thrilled. Such individuals will be more likely to stay in touch with you as they know that you can be a great resource.
If there is a way that you can help out, regardless of how small or big it is, do it. Build up your networking karma by being generous and it will return to help you.
It is true that networking is about getting your face, name and business card out into the world but, in the end, what is important is making real connections. Therefore, you need to relax, be yourself and think about engaging with the people you meet. Do these things instead of focusing what you will say the next time they ask a question and you won’t have a hard time building business relationships.
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5Author: Wheeler del Torro
Wheeler del Torro (www.wheelerdeltorro.com) is a nutritional anthropologist and author. His most recent book, Boss Up!, provides a step-by-step guide to creating a powerful executive presence in order to be perceived as a leader and reap the benefits that go along with it. When he is not researching, lecturing, or hosting popups, Wheeler is out setting the next culinary trend.