I had the opportunity to attend a conference for professionals and interns in my industry last week. For the interns and new staff the conference showcased how to use networking to advance your career.
It was my first time attending this annual event and it was a terrific learning opportunity to share ideas and best practices with like-minded individuals who are in similar roles at other organizations.
There were over 2,100 people attending this conference and for many industry veterans it was a chance to connect with old friends and visit with their colleagues. Here are a few of the tips they picked up for succesful networking:
Using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is a great way to follow people in your industry and connect with them. Twitter is probably the easiest social networking tool to use, since you can follow anyone and jump into a conversation if you have something valuable to add. Once you develop some industry connections on Twitter you can begin to move those relationships to the more permission-based social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Remember to clean up your personal social networking accounts by removing potentially embarrassing photos and video, and be careful what you are saying casually to your friends online since most of your conversations are available for public viewing.
Networking is not a competition to see who can collect the most business cards at a conference or tradeshow event. Listen carefully as you meet others to find common ground and develop true friendships. Those friendships will last a lot longer than a business card in your Rolodex, and they can become more valuable as you advance your career.
The elevator pitch means you can deliver your key message in the time span of an elevator ride, which can be anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. At a networking event with hundreds, or even thousands, of people in attendance you need to set yourself apart from the other folks in the room.
Provide an interesting fact about yourself that becomes a humanizing element and makes you more memorable. A well delivered elevator pitch can be used to sell an idea or to sell yourself, so it should include key differentiators and skills that you can offer.
Tips for Talking to Strangers
Trying to connect with new people at a networking event can be one of the most intimidating situations for a young professional trying to advance their career. In a social setting you should try and find a common bond with the person you are talking to. Common bonds include family, work, and special interest topics that bring people together like sports and current events.
Good starter questions are, “What do you like to do when you have some free time?” or “Where is your favourite place to visit on vacation?” These questions can give you a glimpse into their life without having to hear their entire life story. The more you find out the more it can lead to additional conversations. Remember that in order to be a good conversationalist you should always put the other person first, come up with thoughtful “on the fly” questions relative to their interests, and be a great listener.
Have a Networking Plan
Developing great networking skills doesn’t just mean showing up to the industry events and exchanging business cards. After meeting someone new, make sure to send them an email or a handwritten note with your business card to help continue the conversation. A good time to reach out to your network is after significant accomplishments, disappointing or tragic news, or during the holidays.
Related: How A Career Change Improved My Life
Have a networking plan that includes meeting new people, developing those relationships, and regularly following up with existing contacts. Focus on giving and connecting with others before asking for something in exchange. People want to do business with people they like, respect and trust.
Networking is a great way to advance your career if you can do these things effectively. Become a resource for others and the benefits will follow you down the road.
Do you have any networking tips for getting ahead in your industry?