Professional Networking 101

You’ve probably read, in this blog and elsewhere, that your network of contacts is an excellent source of news about job opportunities — usually better ones than what shows up on the job boards. But how do you build that network?

 

Here are some pointers to get your name and face into the minds of those who can help you up the next rung of your career ladder.

 

Develop a good elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is what you say about yourself to someone you just met in the elevator. This “speech” should be about 30 seconds long (the length of an elevator ride) and should be a summary of what you do, your strengths and abilities. Use your elevator pitch whenever you’re meeting people you’d like to network with.

 

Put yourself out there.

The only way to add people to your network is to get out and meet them — lots of them. Attend conferences, workshops, events, alumni associations, etc. Join Linked-In and Twitter groups for your profession. Think about where else the people you want to meet are likely to be, such as happy hours near their office and sports leagues.

 

Make a great first impression.

Excellent grooming and hygiene, appropriate attire and polite manners are, of course, a must. Go light on the cologne or perfume. Be confident but relaxed, smile and shake hands firmly. Control your body language; this includes no slouching and no fidgeting. Remember the name of the person you just met. A good way to do this is repeat it back to them: “It’s great to meet you, Jane.”

 

Be a good listener.

This one technique can get almost anyone to like and remember you. But you must be sincerely interested in what he or she is saying. High-level influencers will easily spot phoniness or kissing up, and will most likely run the other way. Ask open-ended questions to encourage your new acquaintance to share more information.

 

Make a memorable last impression.

If you want to add your new acquaintance to your network, close the conversation by suggesting that you meet again. Everyone likes to be reassured that you enjoyed spending time with them. You might even follow up with a text the next day. But be careful not to come across as needy or clingy.

 

Do unto others.

Successful networking isn’t just about what you will get out of it; the other person wants to profit from the connection too. Share your expertise and ideas. Offer to introduce two people in your network who don’t know each other. When you do them a favor, they’ll be more motivated to do you one in return. Plus, if you help them advance their career, they’ll be in a better position to help you advance yours.

 

Using these strategies, you’ll build an amazing professional network. And you’ll be the first one your contacts call when they hear of a job that would be perfect for you.

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