Networking Tips for the New Year
Let’s talk New Year’s resolutions. If learning how to network isn’t on your 2020 list, it should be! Networking successfully can be challenging, leading to awkward conversations and low payoff. But done correctly, networking can introduce you to new opportunities and be the start of strong professional or personal relationships. Keep reading and we’ll show you how to stop going to networking events just to pass out your business card, and how to start networking to get the results you want.
- Have a plan before you go. What is it you want to accomplish? Make your goal achievable but meaningful. Filling a table at an event your organization is sponsoring? Good for you, but that is not a goal! Reconnect, follow up or set a standard to introduce yourself to two new people.
- Use standing in line to your advantage: If you don’t recognize anybody at the event, the easiest and most natural way to get to know someone is to strike up a conversation with those standing in front or behind you in line. Whether the line is to grab a nametag or some food, making small talk with those around you takes the pressure off having to approach somebody which puts you more at ease and leads to better conversations. And if the conversation isn’t one you’d like to continue, getting your name tag or food provides an easy exit.
- Listen more than you speak: While it might be tempting to “sell yourself,” the best networkers are those that listen more than they speak. Rather than commanding the conversation and doing all the talking, ask questions and listen. And don’t forget about your body language! Smiling and making eye contact are signs that you are listening; looking around the room and crossing your arms are not!
- Learn enough about those you are meeting to understand how you can help them or know someone who can help them. Being a connector or problem solver for your contacts is always good business.
- Find a reason to follow up: Networking shouldn’t end with the event. If you met somebody that you connected with, follow up with them via email if they gave you their business card, or LinkedIn if they didn’t, within 24-48 hours after meeting. Doing so ensures that you are not forgotten and opens the door to more conversation in the future. Bonus points if you can share an article with them that reminds you of something you spoke about.
- Don’t limit yourself to events: Networking is all around you. Don’t wait for an industry conference or luncheon to meet new people. You never know, the person in front of you at Starbucks may be a great connection. LinkedIn and Twitter are also great places to network outside of scheduled events.
As you fill your 2020 calendar with conferences, luncheons and events, don’t forget to think about how you will make the most out of each one. If networking isn’t your forte, we challenge you to try some of these tips to improve your skills in the new year.