Top 5 Ways to Refine Your Networking Skills

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/greaterbostonchamber/sets/

Photo from www.flickr.com.

Let’s face it, we’ve all made excuses when it comes to networking. But, there’s always time to focus on your personal and professional growth. If you’ve been putting it off, now is the time to concentrate on, and invest in, yourself. I’m talking about making a plan to get out from behind your desk to enhance your presence in the community, build your personal reputation, create brand awareness, and enrich your social capital – all while having a good time doing it.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about trying a local Meetup, volunteering, getting involved with a professional organization, or seeing what your local alumni association is all about.

Whatever interests you – and gets you outside of your comfort zone – is a great place to start. As you develop your networking plan and goals, it’s essential to arm yourself with the right skills you need to conquer your fears and be successful.

Here are 5 essential tips to help you polish your skills, before hitting your next networking event:

  1. Arrive a few minutes before the event starts.Get comfortable with the room and enjoy the opportunity to introduce yourself to fellow early birds, before the room fills up. We’ve all had that awkward networking experience – we just walked into a crowded room and feel lost where to start. Giving yourself the extra time to arrive early, will put your mind at ease and boost your confidence.
  2. Know the importance of your handshake.As we all know, first impressions are important. But, besides your outward appearance, did you know people will make assumptions about you based on your handshake? Believe it or not, the firmness of your grip reveals your confidence, while providing a sense of trustworthiness. Go for a balanced, and, firm handshake for a well-rounded first impression.
  3. Be yourself.Business is human and building authentic relationships with other professionals in the community is key to your success. In today’s world, you have to break down functional barriers, get outside of your day-to-day, and go beyond your industry to get things done and advance your career – and if you want to be successful in any networking venue you have to be your authentic self.
  4. Go for quality not quantity.Although we’d all like to leave a networking event with an empty stack of business cards, networking isn’t about how many business cards you can hand out. Networking is about connecting with people on a genuine level and having an interest in other people. Discover what matters to the people you meet, and don’t be afraid to share your interests and passions to develop a deeper connection. Ask insightful questions about the other person’s work and find a way to add value to the relationship, as illustrated in Anna Vital’s How to Connect with People Infographic on fundersandfounders.com.
  5. Follow-up is your secret sauce.Not following-up is a missed opportunity. Most people don’t follow-up, or rarely follow-up at all. So be sure to reach out to the key people you want to stay in touch within 12-24 hours. Ask them to coffee to offer them help, continue the engaging conversation you were having at the event, or express your interest in their perspective on a particular topic. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t reply right away. Set a reminder to follow up with them a few days later.

Now get out there – take the leap – and engage in the community, strengthen relationships, create memories, and advance your career!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MICHELLE RAYBURNMichelle Rayburn_Headshot

After graduating the University of Cincinnati in 2010, I gathered my things and left my Ohio roots to realize my Boston dream. As a transplant, I learned life in a new city can be a little challenging to navigate from a civic, social, and professional perspective. However, I have a passion for building – and participating in – inclusive communities that empower and encourage women to aspire to achieve greatness. In my day job, I work for a membership organization and help companies utilize their people to strategically engage in the Boston business community. In my free time, I’m committed to developing student leaders in the Eta Theta chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Harvard, serving as their coach, mentor, and Chapter Council Adviser. Today, I hope to make it easier for you to get connected to Boston, network, and navigate the City through my Women’s iLab column: The Aspiring Woman’s Guide to Networking in Boston.

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