For virtually any career, opportunities are found based on who you know. Networking is vital in almost every industry, and that can be a considerable challenge for those of us who are not social by nature. Regardless of your social skills, interacting with your fellow industry professionals is essential for career development. If you are focused on career development but struggle with networking, follow these three tips to expand and strengthen your network of professional connections.
1. Plan Ahead
As with many endeavors, planning ahead using your networking approach can yield impressive returns. Before attending any company event, symposium, or seminar, set goals for yourself. Think about what kinds of connections you want to make. Brainstorm and decide which executives you would like to meet, which peers you want to strengthen ties with, and how many new people you would like to introduce yourself to. Research high-level executives and peers to see what their professional interests are. Read any papers they have written and prepare a mental list of potential discussion topics. While there is no guarantee that you will encounter every person you research, it is always best to be prepared to make new connections.
2. Consider Your Approach
With any business interaction you have, it can be helpful to consciously find a balance in tone between professional and personable. Generally, you want to avoid being too cold or too casual in your mannerisms and conversation. Utilizing this balance, consider how you plan to approach various potential networking connections. It can be beneficial to draft a few one-or-two sentence introductions that you can use when talking to new people. You should always include your name. If applicable, include where you work, how you know of the person, any mutual contacts, and a question or discussion topic. Rather than trying to force conversation, simply introduce yourself and mention a common interest, career goal, or mutual acquaintance and allow the conversation to flow naturally.
3. Follow Up, But Don’t Pester
If you end up exchanging email addresses, LinkedIn information, or phone numbers, be sure to follow up with the person. Avoid waiting to reach out and try to engage with them while they still remember their initial conversation with you. If they do not respond after a couple of attempts at contact, do not pester them. You will encounter a lot of dead ends in the process of networking for career development, and it is essential that you not get discouraged. Simply keep introducing yourself to new people and strengthening your current connections.
Lewis-Price is an SBA 8(a) certified staffing company committed to providing solutions to our clients and teaming partners alike. We staff diverse, engaged leaders in IT, cybersecurity, program management, and training. We value integrity and intention. We provide you with engaged professionals ready to join your team. To learn more about our staffing solutions, please contact us at (703)727-9182. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.