Networking is all about building connections. These connections can open up opportunities, promote your personal “brand” even if you aren’t actively looking for a new position, and help build life-long personal and professional friendships.
Using an intelligent approach to networking, whether you’re at a casual social-hour type of event or attending a conference, alumni event, or trade show, can produce the best results. By following proper networking etiquette, you can build out your contact sphere while having a little fun at the same time.
Here are some tips for networking success:
1. Don’t just collect business cards.
While making your networking connections, keep in mind that networking is more than just being introduced to someone and shaking his or her hand. When you meet people at a conference, business lunch, or social event, you want them to remember you as someone who can help them achieve their goals. Have a 30-second “elevator pitch” ready to go whenever someone asks, “So, what do you do?”
2. Remember that networking is a give-and-take process.
Be genuinely interested in what other people have to say about themselves or what they’re doing. While you’re at it, share job leads with other job-seekers whenever possible. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it shows that you are willing to help other. Your job search may turn up leads that aren't right for you, but may be right for someone else in your network. By reaching out to help others, you become a resource for them. Your contacts will appreciate the gesture, and one day they might be in a position to let you know about an opening that isn’t a good fit for them but could be the one you’re looking for.
3. Network with a plan.
Decide upfront what you want to accomplish and stick with the plan. If your goal is connecting with one person in the first hour, and exchanging business cards, hold yourself accountable to making that one connection.
4. Be fearless.
Take the initiative in conversations, even if casual conversation is not your strong suit. Believe it or not, you’re not alone.
5. Learn to listen.
Active listening is almost a forgotten skill in today’s multimedia world. Actively listening means putting yourself in another person’s shoes and taking the time to truly hear what they have to say. Practice repeating people’s name when you meet them and promise to connect with them again after the event.
6. Give genuine feedback.
Be willing to share your opinions when prompted. People you are connecting with may value your comments or suggestions. Learn how to say what you think in an honest, constructive, and positive way.
7. Stay in touch with contacts.
Keep good notes and records of networking contacts, and send a thank-you note to anyone who was especially helpful. Do your best to keep in touch—without being a pest. Connect on LinkedIn and keep track of contacts’ movements. Reach out to your contacts every six months or so to say hello and to keep the relationship going. It might seem like a lot of work, but if you’re determined and sincere, you’ll eventually know someone who can provide a key job lead or inside information on a potential employer.
The above was adapted from the new Vault Career Guide to Commercial and Investment Banking.
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