If you’re naturally introverted or find speaking to strangers difficult, that’s OK! The goal isn’t to take away the butterflies in your stomach but to give you the tools to power through, no matter how strong they may be.
This list of professional networking tips doesn’t assume you’re already an outgoing, well-connected socialite. If you were an extrovert, you probably wouldn’t need to look up networking tips in the first place.
What Is Professional Networking?
Networking is making connections to relevant professionals. When you build a relationship with someone in your business or a related business, that’s networking. These relationships will serve you as you look to grow in your profession. We all need connections to people who can provide products and services that would be otherwise difficult to source, and in return, we can provide them with our expertise.
How Does Professional Networking Work?
There are many specific professional networking tips to know, but the basic gist of how professional networking works is that you attend relevant business events, join clubs and organizations and otherwise make yourself present where professionals gather. Sometimes introductions will be formal, or participants will be expected to present themselves to the group. Other times, networking is something you will have to initiate on your own.
Be Mindful of Your Presentation
One of the most important bits of networking advice you’ll ever hear is that you must look the part. This means dressing appropriately for the event in question, putting on a name tag and acting as though you want to build relationships. Eye contact, good grammar, firm handshakes and genuine compliments are vital.
Sharpen Your Pitch
Do you know why you’re in your profession? Why are you networking? Let’s say you’re wondering how to network into a job. Don’t you need to have the ability to pitch yourself as an asset to a company? The phrase “elevator pitch” comes from a thought experiment that presents a situation where you’re stuck on an elevator and have to pitch your service/product/possible employment to the other person stuck with you. Develop your pitch and be able to distill down your experiences and positive qualities so that you can present the best you.
Start with People You Know
This may surprise you, given that this is a list of professional networking tips, but you need to start with friends, family and co-workers. Do you have college professors, friends, colleagues, relatives or other acquaintances who can vouch for your skills? Do you know people who can put you in touch with professionals who can further your career? Talk to them!
Attend Career Fairs
When employers and recruiters hold career fairs, you’ll bring your resume and apply for the jobs that the business is looking for. But let’s say you don’t get hired right away. That’s OK! You’ve still hopefully made a positive impression on the employer, and you never know what further opportunities may open up with them. Also, the career fair is going to be full of other professionals who are also hungry for new business relationships. Be ready to connect with other attendees.
Consider Your Online Network
In the preinternet days, networking tips for professionals almost exclusively focused on in-person connections. These days, tips for networking must include a digital element. Whatever social media presence you have, use it to your advantage. Create a quality LinkedIn profile and get on career apps. Join message boards and forums for like-minded and relevant professions. Interact! Be positive!
A connection can come from anywhere. Let’s say you’re a graphic artist who specializes in album covers. You may be standing in line at a coffee shop and overhear someone wondering why it’s so hard finding graphic designers who can make good album art. That’s your time to pull out your business card. If you put yourself in the mindset that networking only happens at specific times at specific events, you’ll miss some great opportunities.
Come with Questions
Be ready to ask questions. Learn how to ask follow-ups off the cuff as well as standard queries. Asking the cost of their services is expected, but remember that you’ll need to dig to find the really interesting meat that can create deeper connections. If, for example, you’re talking to a beer brewery owner, you don’t just have to ask questions about making beer. They might need graphic design for their packaging, legal advice regarding out-of-state sales, customer appreciation event coordination or one of a dozen other tangentially related yet essential issues.
Remember to Listen
If you truly want a deep professional connection, you’ll have to practice the art of active listening. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t stand with your arms folded. Don’t interrupt. Nod, make eye contact and smile. Also, remember that saying, “You’re right” is more powerful than saying, “I know.” The former implies you value what the person said, and they gave you something useful you might not have heard before. The latter makes it sound like you already have the information they’re giving you, and the conversation is somewhat pointless.
Always Follow Up
Don’t make vague plans about connecting again in the future. Make concrete plans to discuss further needs. Vague plans would be, “Let’s do lunch sometime.” Concrete plans are, “I’d love to discuss this further. Would you have a quick 10 minutes to grab coffee Wednesday morning so I could show you the stats? How’s 7:30?”
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This list of professional networking tips is just the starting point for your networking adventure. Go out, get involved, be yourself, stay positive, listen and build these relationships. One relationship you’ll love having is the one with Print Bind Ship. When you’re going out to events and meeting new professionals, you’ll need to have business cards, nametags and high-quality printed materials to make an amazing impression. Become a networking powerhouse today with Print Bind Ship!
Start by looking professional (well dressed, groomed), practice your elevator speech, learn to ask questions and listen, and find events and organizations where you can meet relevant professionals.
The concepts are simple, but the execution can be difficult because it requires persistence. The important thing is to practice. Some people find introducing themselves and talking to other professionals to be easy, and some find it nerve-racking. It depends on the individual.
Generally, a networking session should last 60 to 90 minutes. This gives participants plenty of time to make connections without feeling like there’s an abundance of awkward downtime.