By Brett Hobby
Networking is a buzzword you hear often but what is it? What IS networking?
Networking is the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Networking is also an opportunity to show others you can add value to their lives.
Not all events will be viewed as networking opportunities by the attendees. Therefore, when we discuss networking, it’s important to remember what networking is NOT. It is not just collecting business cards! Also, not all parties or events will be viewed as networking events by attendees. Always be prepared either way.
So, WHY specifically, should you network? Maybe you want to develop mutually beneficial business relationships; secure knowledge about business processes and services or get referrals that may help you develop your business. Maybe you are seeking a job and you want to uncover the “hidden job market” (jobs that are not advertised [up to 75% of jobs fall into this category]; help potential employers get to know you in person; understand an organization’s culture and the current status within the company and their industry.
Also keep in mind that networking is not about you always getting something…sometimes you may be giving/sharing more. ALL types of networking are beneficial and it’s often a good practice to ask questions and listen more, rather than be the person talking all the time.
Quick tips to set yourself up for successful networking. First, determine what you are trying to accomplish with your networking. Are you seeking a new job or promoting a product? Next, determine who you would like to meet. Are you trying to meet employers, alumni or potential customers for your products? Finally, what is your timeline for accomplishing this?
Determine what events or resources will meet your needs. Will it be a Chamber of Commerce event, a UHD event, a large event in Houston? Also, determine what you should take with you? A resume might make sense and/or samples of your work. Practice your elevator pitch and dress professionally.
Finally, follow up with an email or phone call AFTER the event. Doing so will help solidify your connection with those you met at the event and set you up for future conversations, etc. Also, make sure to connect with them on LinkedIn and stay in touch.
Networking isn’t always easy or natural but these tips can help ensure it is a success. Remember, preparation and networking with a purpose are key.