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Professional networking is a critical skill to further your career and find opportunity. It comes natural to me because I’m a sales professional but it doesn’t for many. Social skills are more valuable now than ever before because we live in a world where people are constantly looking at screens instead of interacting with each other. Don’t believe me, look at what people are doing in line at your local coffee shop in the morning.
I’m a firm believer that expanding your professional network can also increase your net worth. My hope is to give you a couple professional networking tips.
- Have a Social Game Plan strategy
Even if social interaction is uncomfortable for you, identify social contexts that you feel comfortable in.
You can gain control of social situations by focusing on your strengths and people you’re targeting.
Avoid professional networking events you hate, people can spot a fake smile from a mile away. These days, networking groups participate in a variety of social activities like; golfing, skiing, trivia, road races, etc.. Find an activity and professional group that meets to do something you enjoy, and has opportunities to meet people that matter to you.
2. Prep before an event
Professional networking groups usually have rsvp lists to events. Scan contacts lists before an event to identify who you want to meet. See if your competition is attending. Review the event itinerary to see when they have dedicated ‘networking’ time scheduled.
Practice your introduction and prepare talking points related to the event and group. Practice it until it becomes muscle memory. This will keep you relaxed during the event when your brain can go on auto-pilot.
3. Introduce yourself
You’re at an event alone and can’t help feeling awkward. Guess what? You’re not the only person flying solo. Don’t think about it, go introduce yourself to people and start conversations. This will take practice but you will get there.
Have a firm handshake and maintain eye contact during conversations. Eye contact during social interactions release oxytocin, the love hormone, which builds trust.
If get anxiety about shaking hands because you have sweaty palms like me, wrap a napkin around a cold drink and hold it with your right hand. When it’s time to shake, your hands will be a little chilly, but dry.
4. Ask for what you want
You’re in a genuinely good conversation with someone you wanted to meet. Make sure you exchange contact information and ask when you can contact them for: a product presentation, grab lunch, etc..
Don’t waste that connection and all the effort you put into an event. Too many people forget to ask for what they want. Communicate your intentions (at the right time). That’s what professional networking events are for.
You’re not going to successfully close every follow up meeting but the important part is you’re taking a step closer. Small incremental steps is how you achieve goals. Don’t let the ‘gurus’ on instagram and youtube fool you with the flashy cars they post about. It took them a lot of hard work, sweat, and tears to get there.
Look out for more content like this from me every week. Let me know what you guys think in the comments below.