In a job market where a vast majority of job openings are never advertised or publicly announced, but filled through word-of-mouth or networking, networking has become increasingly important.
Although social media has revolutionized networking for anyone who is more comfortable in front of a computer screen than schmoozing at a cocktail party, for the socially timid, the bad news is that good old fashioned handshakes and eye contact are still crucial elements of networking.
The best way to start developing your network is through conventional, face to face networking. The more people you know and the more they know about you and what you do.
Here are 10 tips to follow to successfully build professional relationships and expand your network:
1. Be prepared
Before attending an industry event, try to obtain a list of attendees and select the people you would like to meet. Read up on their business and prepare potential topics for discussion. Identify your objectives for the event and think about how you would like to come across to the people you meet.
2. Put the smartphone down
It can be tempting to take refuge in a corner with your device when you’re stranded at a networking event all by your lonesome. But focusing all your attention on your phone is a sure signal that you’re not interested in socialising.
3. Have business cards on-hand at all times
Not just at networking events but even when you run out for coffee or to grab lunch. You never know who you’ll run into, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to make a connection. Act confident, even if you’re not.
4. Learn to listen
If you’re an introvert, take a tip from Ivan Misner, founder of the professional business networking organization BNI: capitalize on your natural instinct to be a good listener. Ask a lot of questions and engage your conversational partner. Ironically, being interested often makes you seem more interesting.
5. Be equal opportunity
It’s always exciting to shake hands with the CEO of your dream company, but it can be just as beneficial to spend some time chatting with his admin or the person who works the front desk at his firm.
6. Ask insightful questions
Ironically, being interested often makes you seem more interesting.
Show that you have a sharp, inquisitive mind. Think of new ways to phrase inquiries. Instead of “What do you do?,” ask “What do you love most about your role?”
7. Follow up
Follow up with people you’ve met in person by sending them a LinkedIn connection request and reaching out on Twitter to say a public hello.
8. Always keep it positive
Even if you’re not crazy about the venue, or your commute was difficult, these aren’t good conversation starters. Keeping things on a positive note shows that you have a good attitude and are willing to see the upside of any scenario—valuable qualities for companies looking for employees to help them troubleshoot product problems and handle customers with aplomb.
9. Make yourself valuable
The best way to get people to remember you? Plant a seed in their mind about how you can help them. As you’re talking, notice opportunities to insert your particular skills and know-how.
10. Smile and shake hands
Never forget that simple physical gestures like these make you seem more approachable.
The more time and effort you put into your network, the better returns you can expect to see. Important opportunities can present themselves at unexpected times. Open yourself up to professional exchanges and you will find more opportunities for career advancement.
Start networking now and connect with Robert Walters on LinkedIn.