People in your network can be a valuable source of information that might include job leads, clients, and other resources. For many, though, networking may not come easy. Below are some tips that can make networking easier and more productive.
If networking is challenging to you, start small. Set a goal to attend a networking event or other networking opportunity once or twice a month, and then increase it as you feel more comfortable. For many, networking one-on-one seems easier, so consider inviting a business associate to lunch as a way to get started. Remember, regardless of how you network, it is important to be yourself.
Be Strategic and Then Evaluate
After attending a range of professional networking events, evaluate your experiences to determine which ones interested you and provided the most value. These are the ones you want to revisit.
Leverage the Internet
The Internet offers many opportunities to make professional connections through websites, like LinkedIn. You can also participate online through professional or industry forums and blogs.
Prepare before an Event
Your networking success at professional events will increase if you’ve prepared in advance. For example, research the speakers and topics that will be addressed. Investigate current trends or issues that might be of interest to those attending the event. This preparation may help you generate a few open-ended questions to spark conversation with attendees.
When networking, there should never be an expectation that everyone is there to assist you or vice versa. However, when someone is able to provide professional assistance, it is nice to reciprocate when possible.