Why do some people still treat networking as a one-way street, pushing their business cards into as many hands as possible, and working their way through superficial conversations as if it’s a race or contest to see how many people they can alienate?
These people stand out like a sore thumb. They’re not very professional, or even particularly cordial in their approach. True networkers, on the other hand, stand out for better reasons. While they may only speak to four or five people in total during an event, those are quality conversations.
We all have something to share, and we should also be avid listeners, willing to hear other perspectives and stories. Initiate a two-way conversation with something like, “Tell me a little about yourself.” As they speak, smile, nod, and be positive and agreeable. Listen attentively; don’t be scanning the room for who you’re going to speak to next.
Then you can interject with the ways you can help. Tell them how you can bring value to them – by sharing your network or expertise, helping them solve a particular problem or introducing them to someone who can, or helping in their career advancement in some other way.
In networking, first impressions count – always be professional, poised and courteous, look people in the eye, and give a firm handshake. Never be negative yourself, even if someone is being aggressive with you. Be polite and wish them the best, and then move on to find a more genuine conversation.
In my own experience as a persistent networker, providing value, guidance and support to other people’s specific goals and initiatives has been crucial for my success in career and business.
People I had networked with 10 years ago, but didn’t need my services at the time, have approached me when they found themselves in a career transition. I also do several free resume critiques every day for people who submit a request via the Elite Resumes website. People remember the quality of the service I provided, and come back for more.
What goes around, comes around. When people are looking to hire or refer someone for an executive appointment, they’ll look to the people they’ve had meaningful interactions with, and those who have been most helpful to them.