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- Build a two-way relationship. Networking is a two-way relationship: give and take. When building a relationship think about how you can help others, not just what the person can do for you. Be genuine, authentic, and trustworthy.
- Select meaningful networking events. Attending multiple networking events without assessing the meaningfulness will lose its effectiveness. Pick groups that will help you get what you need. Are you attending the event to learn, make contacts, or volunteer? Assess the purpose prior to attending a networking event.
- Shop networking events prior to joining. Once you start attending networking events, you will find that there are a plethora of events to attend each year. Many groups will let you visit two times before joining. So, shop around for the networking group that you feel is beneficial to meet your needs. Are the people supportive? Is the event organized? Does the leadership appear competent? Evaluate the group prior to joining.
- Strategize prior to attending a networking event. Prior to attending networking event, do some homework. With every networking event attended, you should have goals. You need to be able to answer the question: Why am I attending this event? Who would you like to meet that is attending the event? How many conversations will you initiate? How many business cards will you obtain prior to leaving the event? Do you have readily formed open-ended questions prepared prior to attending the event?
- Prepare your elevator speech. Can you in thirty seconds or less, introduce yourself, your position, and what skills you bring to an organization? You use this speech to introduce yourself. It is important to have your speech memorized and practiced: OUT LOUD. You want it to sound natural, so you can breeze through it when needed. You must have a clear understanding of what you do, so you can easily articulate it to others.
- Volunteer on event committee or leadership role with an organization. The best way to meet and build relationships within an organization is to volunteer on a committee or run for a leadership role with an organization. The committee is small enough where you will meet and develop relationships and exhibit your work to multiple people. When you volunteer on a committee, you begin to develop a reputation for being friendly, team oriented, and supportive.
- Become known as an expert resource. Use your talents to make yourself known. Volunteer to speak at a conference or networking event, write a paper on a topic of interest in your field, or write a monthly blog on industry topics. When you are known as a resource, people will seek you out for suggestions, ideas, and topics for events. This process keeps you visible to others.
- Use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional social networking platform. LinkedIn is about virtually connecting to other like-minded professionals and colleagues. So, it is best to have a well-written and managed LinkedIn profile. When exchanging business cards at networking events, it is networking etiquette to ask if you could add that person to your LinkedIn network. Express that you enjoyed meeting them and you will stay in contact via LinkedIn.