Networking is an important skill every student and professional must master. This skill creates relationships and opportunities that can help all those involved when done correctly. However, it can be a daunting task and something that takes time to develop. Below are six tips to become an effective networker and benefit from the activity:
1) Be personable. Networking is about making new, meaningful relationships. Discuss interests and trade stories with the new person you meet instead of simply selling who you are. This will put less pressure on you and also ensure all those in the conversation are enjoying themselves. Also, this will leave a better lasting impression on others rather than someone who comes off as pushy with an agenda.
2) Keep up to date with current events and relevant information. Reading the newspaper or watching the news daily will provide an ample amount of topics you can use to start a conversation. A little research beforehand about a company or industry can also go a long way when building rapport. These pieces of information can be sprinkled in the conversation when needed.
3) Network with a partner. If you are a little shy, go around meeting others with a partner. The familiar face will ease the tension of meeting someone new and both of you can build off each other’s energy. However, it is not recommended to approach others in groups greater than two as it can be quite intimidating to the person you are meeting.
4) Quality over quantity. At a networking event, spend time and effort to get to know the other person rather than meeting as many people as possible. By engaging in a meaningful conversation, you may learn something useful as opposed to what would have been brought up in a short, superficial chat. Also, establishing quality relationships with others will make a bigger impact and better use of your time.
5) Follow-up and build on the new relationship. Enjoyed the conversation with the new person or curious in learning more about something that was discussed? Reach out and ask to meet again with a purpose. Also, sending a thank you email, call, or letter goes a long way in building a relationship. If you see someone you have met at a previous networking event, stop and talk with that person again to catch up. Building relationships takes time and multiple points of contact. Once the relationship is established, then the benefits can be seen.
6) Help others. The Vancouver Board of Trade’s motto is “…connecting for good” and this should be the mentality when networking. Refer other professionals or businesses if you hear someone is looking for a service. Whenever possible, ask the newly met person what you can do to help. Making the first step to reach and help others builds stronger relationships and will benefit everyone.
Practice these tips often and the rewards from networking will be great. If you successfully gain something out of your network, give back in return and make a difference in someone else’s life.
-Earl Alikpala, Communications AIESEC UBC