Attending a networking event is not really your cup of tea. Sure, you’ve heard how important it is in job searches or for career advancement, and you want to make plans for the year ahead. But even the thought of getting professional networking tips so you can rub shoulders with strangers makes you nervous.
You’re what might be called a “non-networker.” But that may be hurting you and your job.
Most successful people say they wouldn’t have gotten as far as they have, both in finding a new job and climbing the career ladder, without the ability to network and the solid connections they’ve made as a result. That should give you ample reason to improve your networking skills.
Consider the following five professional networking tips to help you check your nervousness at the door:
Tip #1. Give networking some forethought
Before a get-together or event, make a list of the connections you want to make. Many event coordinators post the names of attendees and their job titles so you can review the guest list beforehand. Do a Google search of the people who sound interesting to see if they’ve written blogs or other online content. Jot down notes about each person, their job or their company that could be used as the basis for a potential discussion. Many events also use hashtags on Twitter so attendees can communicate before (and during) the networking event.
Tip #2. Tailor your networking approach
Rehearse your introductions and tailor them for each person or job you’re targeting. For instance:
- “Hi, I’m Sabrina. I’m an accountant with XYZ firm. Our firm does work for your company. I’ve seen you copied on some email messages, and I wanted to introduce myself since we’ve never met in person."
- “Hi, I’m Sabrina. I’m an accountant at XYZ firm. I believe you know my manager, Sue Smith. I noticed you two are connected on LinkedIn. How do you know Sue?”
- “Hi, I’m Sabrina. I’m an accountant at XYZ firm. I saw you speak at last year’s conference. I really enjoyed your presentation. Will you be speaking at the next event?”
- "Hi, I'm Sabrina. I'm just starting my career in accounting, and I wondered if you had any tips for achieving success in this profession."
Tip #3. Know the line between professional and cold
You’ll want to appear as professional as possible while you're networking with people, but that doesn’t mean you should hide your personality. Quite the opposite: Let it shine through. Meeting someone who seems “all business” is not appealing for most people. Allow conversations to flow naturally while you're networking, and act as if you are building a relationship with a new friend.
Tip #4. Remember to follow up on your networking
Don’t wait too long to reconnect when you meet people with whom you’d like to make a career connection or build a relationship. Strike while the iron is hot and the conversation you had is still fresh in their minds. Rather than calling new contacts after networking, send brief emails or personalized LinkedIn requests, and make sure your social media profiles are up to date.
Tip #5. Don’t take it personally
If you don’t hear back from someone after a couple of attempts, it likely means they’re really busy or just not interested in staying connected. Instead of dwelling on the contacts that got away, work on continuing to strengthen the relationship with each connection that panned out.
Keep networking! Like most things, the more you network, the easier it gets.
Editor's note: This post was published originally in 2014 and has been updated recently with current information.