I recently had the pleasure of conducting a class for college interns on networking and interviewing. I loved the dialogue from the class, but I noticed that most of the questions were about networking. Yes, there are some people who are born master networkers, but there also are people that would rather donate blood than attend a networking event. The good news is anybody can learn how to be a master networker. I personally know that networking skills can be learned because I used to be an introvert that grew into a situational extrovert from being in business for almost 20 years. So, if you are ready to jumpstart your career or just meet more people, please follow my tried-and-true networking tips that have helped me overcome my shyness and achieve success in the business world.
- Do have an awesome elevator pitch. This is a very short introduction that should spark interest in others about you. It should be 20-30 seconds, which also is the amount of time we spend on a short elevator ride. Your elevator pitch explains who you are, what you do, and what is unique and/or valuable about you. Practice your elevator pitch with friends and family to become at ease saying it so you don’t sound like you are reciting a script.
- Do not come unprepared. Always show up prepared by having clean business cards, clean and wrinkle free clothes, and your pitch. When you meet a new person, always smile and shake their hand. At all times carry a notepad and pen so you can write notes about individuals you meet. A master networker always has a list of people they want to meet, so compile a list of contacts you need to meet before each event. Meeting your “dream team” may mean you have to come early and leave late, but it’s all part of becoming a master networker.
- Do not be afraid to join groups. If you are new to networking, a safe person to approach is always the individual standing alone or by the snack table, but eventually you will have to join a group of people. Try joining a group with three or more people that have an opening in their circle. Walk up and make eye contact with one of the individuals in the group and they should bring you into the conversation. It is also best not to interrupt two people talking, especially if they are standing in front of each other because this usually means they are having a deep conversation.
- Do have a closing to end conversations. Many people have trouble ending a conversation, but you can tell if the other person’s attention is fading if they start looking toward the door or at their watch. This is the perfect time to politely end the conversation and move on to meet other people. A respectful way to end the conversation would be to thank them for their time and tell them you will be contacting them later in the week.