Just the word “networking” can be intimidating to those that have never given it a chance. The thought of striking up conversations with strangers sounds less than enjoyable to most people. Networking can be very beneficial to those that are new to an area, those looking to make new business connections or friends, and especially those seeking employment. Some events involve a speaker and some are simply “meet and greet” events where you make your way around a room talking with businessmen and women and swapping business cards.
Tips for a successful networking event:
• Bring a large stack of business cards with you. If you are a job seeker, bring several copies of your resume.
• During the “open networking” portion of the event, be sure to speak with as many people as possible. Engage in each conversation and truly listen instead of thinking about what you want to say next.
• Don’t overstay your welcome. When you feel a conversation has run its course, politely excuse yourself – a handshake, smile, and “it was great to meet you” always helps, and move on to speak with someone else.
• The next day, follow up with everyone you spoke with at the event. This ensures they have your contact information in their email in case they misplace your business card and helps them remember your conversation, hopefully in a positive light. Follow up with each contact periodically.
Check out these websites/organizations if you are looking to expand your network:
LinkedIn – www.LinkedIn.com An excellent resource for those looking to connect with business owners, recruiters, business executives with common interests or educational backgrounds. Set up a profile if you don’t have one already, have previous supervisors and co-workers write you recommendations, and join groups that interest you. Most important: send connection invites to people you know or get to know through networking, and post and comment on discussions in the groups you join. LinkedIn is very user-friendly – don’t be afraid of it!
The CT Groups – www.theCTgroups.org This is a non-profit organization designed for job seekers or those seeking to change jobs. Most important: if you are a job seeker, sign up to be put on their email distribution list, where they email out job posting frequently, and attend local meetings as your schedule allows.
Networking Memphis – This is a networking group I manage through the LinkedIn platform. It consists of over 6,500 members, the majority of whom reside or work in the Memphis area. To join this group go to your LinkedIn home page, type “Networking Memphis group” in the search field at the top of the screen, then click on the blue “Join” button. This group has monthly meet and greet events at different local Memphis businesses January through October, and there is no cost to join the group or attend the events.
Results from networking are frequently realized over time. Speaking with people at multiple events or the same event every month can establish familiarity and eventually lead to a comfort level where a business transaction is discussed or referrals are given. Most people don’t choose to do business with people they just met five minutes ago since they don’t truly “know, like and trust&a