Networking is like a dance—everyone at a networking event seems to know each other already. They’re chatting, shaking hands, and laughing—while you just stand there.
Sometimes, especially with young professionals, networking can be intimidating at first. However, when you’re building your network, start by listening more and talking less.
Ask questions – like an interview
Every networking encounter is an interview. Networking means you are looking for opportunities, though you may not know exactly what they are. Ask the same questions you would in an interview, with a mix of safe, casual questions. Remember to keep it simple. People are looking for informal connections, not aggressive job applicants.
When it’s time to network, it’s time to become a LinkedIn rock star. As the preferred social media platform for professionals, finding others in your professional network on LinkedIn is a great way to maintain connections. You can also broaden your network and position yourself as a thought leader in your field.
Follow up with the best connections
Take your time following up with the right people. Don’t just walk around handing out business cards before you’ve even said your name. Engage with as many people as you can, but take the time to make a connection with another professional before the business card exchange. Listening to others is a great way to establish a strong connection. Many professionals are nervous at a networking event, even if they seem calm on the outside. Letting them talk, as opposed to talking about yourself, will encourage them to remember you and your interest.
Ask questions that help others open up
When you’re networking, everyone has an agenda. By asking thoughtful questions, you show that you’re interested in the person, not just their position. When you listen to conversations and observe those around you, you are more equipped to identify a potential opportunity. You want to position yourself as the solution to a need. You can discover that need better when you listen more than talk.
Remember that networking is a professional relationship, not a personal one. When you’re listening and asking questions, it’s better to keep it professional. Everything you do and say reflects your reputation, so be sure to always keep it professional and positive.
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