That’s right, I said offline. In this digital age, business networking skills are fading fast, particularly among Millennials. I frequently give talks to college groups and chat with recent grads, so I speak with a degree of authority. Ask anyone under 30 to teach you the newest social media app and they will in a flash. Ask them to attend a business networking event, however, and they often scamper off with excuses why they can’t make it faster than you can say “handshake.”
You would think this not the case among newly-minted PR professionals, but I haven’t found that to be true. Whether it’s due to shyness or lack of experience, networking is just plain easier for some people than for others. For any pro in any profession, the ability to “work a room” authentically is vital to career advancement and success.
Whether new to the workplace or a seasoned pro, here are some tips for building and maximizing your networking skills:
- Be authentic – Networking is not about how many names you can add to your contact list or how many Friends you have on Facebook. Some call that “notworking.” Networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
- Practice the Golden Rule of Networking. You have to give, if you want to get.
- Have a helpful mindset but do have your goal in mind.
- Get help if you’re not extroverted. Read Larry King’s book, “How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.”
- Build “Brand You” – Identify the skills, talents and experience you have that make you special.
- Be prepared –
- Prepare an “elevator speech,” a 30-second summary of who you are and what you’d like to do professionally. Practice delivering it out loud – often – to become comfortable.
- Plan to dress appropriately for the networking event in a style that defines you.
- Have 1 or 2 conversation icebreakers at the ready. Current events, weather and sports are great topics. People love to talk about themselves – ask about their business. Avoid controversial subjects such as politics or religion.
- Always have business cards with you.
- Always have an updated resume you can send upon request.
- Become known as a powerful resource – Ask yourself what you can offer to others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc.
- Be goal oriented, targeted and selective – Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings. Research the groups that make the most sense for you. Join groups related to your career path. Establish an annual budget, schedule and plan to participate and engage.
In my next post, I’ll offer five more tips for maximizing your networking experience.