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Networking is a funny concept. Many of my clients see networking as something that only really aggressive and outgoing people do well. The truth is that everyone networks. You probably network without even knowing it. Every time you have a discussion with someone about your life whether it be that you are looking for a job or a day care center for your child or a health spa with good aerobics classes, you are networking. In short, you are sharing information about yourself and the workings of your life. However, there are ways to enhance your networking skills especially when attending an event designed for the purpose of networking.
Just as with a job interview, know what you want to discuss. What makes you interesting? What will make others remember you as a person they would suggest for a job? Maybe you have excellent organizational skills as a result of your involvement in a professional organization. Maybe you are a gifted public speaker.
Be prepared to discuss what you want others to know about you. Make sure you are comfortable speaking about yourself in a positive manner. Some people have a difficult time affirming to others that they are organized, or a good public speaker, or any other positive attribute. Practice this with a friend or colleague. You will need to come across as authentic and confident or your words have little influence to the listener.
Be interested in others
Be prepared to do lots of talking, but also listen to others. Have you ever had the feeling that you were not heard? It feels awful and you probably remember the situation. Other people do too. So make sure to listen and take an interest in what they have to say. We often evaluate others by their ability to hold a conversation. So be sure that the conversation is a two way street.
At most networking events, professionals distribute business cards. It is important to keep track of where you received these cards. One way to remember is by simply writing the event and date on the back of the business card so that they are easier to keep in an organized format. Send a hand-written card or email after the event to keep in touch. Send a note of appreciation if someone has given you a referral. Always mind your manners and offer your assistance to them as well.
A smile will get you attention. A smile shows others that you are friendly and accessible. Would you feel comfortable approaching someone who was not smiling? Think about a shopping trip. We tend to talk to the salesperson that smiles and welcomes us because we see their smile as a sign that he or she will be friendly and helpful.
With careful planning and some practice, networking can become a fun and exciting way of meeting other people to enhance your professional and personal life. Remember, you are networking all the time and in the most unlikely places. Have fun and enjoy this opportunity to advance your career.