Whether you are looking for a job, new clients or feel the need to expand your list of professional contacts, networking is the answer.
So what are you saying to yourself right now? "Yuck, I hate networking. I'll go to a networking event one of these days, if I can figure out where the REALLY good connections are."
Hello? These are all excuses that keep you in the same place and move you no closer to your goals!
Guess what? We all hate networking. It's just that some of us have gotten better at it because we actually force ourselves to do it!
For all of you first time networkers, or those that have to be pushed out the door or accompanied by a friend, here are tips to get you started:
Extreme self-care. Say what? Pamper yourself before you go to an event. Have a massage, talk with a friend who makes you laugh or have lunch at your favorite eatery. The goal is to get to the event feeling relaxed and confident.
Arrive early. The pre-event time is a great chance to have a slightly longer conversation with a new contact. You'll get to speak to others who are eager to make the most of their time. Another plus to arriving early is you can select a good seat for the breakfast or lunch presentation.
Is this the best venue? Carefully choose which event(s) you will attend. Ask yourself: "what are my goals for this event; what do I hope to achieve?" Most organizations welcome guests and will only ask that you pay a one-time fee. After the event, you can determine if the organization is a good fit for you by asking yourself: "Was the group open and welcoming to new members? Did I feel comfortable? Were there like-minded people with whom I connected.
Finding events. Check out The Encyclopedia of Associations in the reference section of the public library. This is a guide to 116,000 U.S. nonprofit organizations, including web addresses and contact information. Select associations that target your area of interest. Once you have decided which group to explore, check out their web site for a list of upcoming meetings.
Bring photos of your kids! That's right, I said bring photos. Pictures of your children are great conversation starters. I've witnessed an entire table of men and women bond by sharing pictures of their kids.
What's your line? Frequently at smaller networking events you'll be asked to stand and give a brief explanation of what you do. For larger events, you will still need to prepare 1-3 memorable sentences. Use compelling phrases and words so people will want to know more about you. Giving just your name and title will not cut it! In preparing your sentences, do the following (1) Offer a specific example of what makes you unique and what you want people to remember (2) Ensure that it prompts people to say, "tell me more." And (3) Deliver your sentences with passion and a commitment to excellence in your work. For example, when I network, I say, "Hi, my name is Dale Kurow and I help people face Mondays with a smile. I've helped a client change jobs with a 40% salary increase and helped another client develop the skills to deal with a difficult boss." I usually get a response such as, "Whoa, I need you," or "I know somebody who needs your services." That's the kind of response you are looking for!
All the tips in the world won't help unless you actually make the effort to get yourself to an event. Preparing ahead of time will make you feel more in control and more willing to go. So, do your homework and you'll be a more confident networker!
Dale Kurow, M.S., is an author and a career and executive coach in NYC. Dale works with clients across the U.S. and internationally, helping them to survive office politics, become better managers, and figure out their next career move.
Visit Dale's web site at http://www.dalekurow.com/phone_ebook for information about her latest E-book, Phone Interview Skills Sharpened Right Here!