Professional networking is one of those things that rarely feels natural. You’re always thinking about what you should say, how you should look, whether to appear engaged or disinterested, when to follow up with new connections, and how to ask for help. However, professional networking is vital for your career’s long-term success. And as someone who has recently entered the professional workforce, it’s imperative that you understand some key points.
Keep These 4 Tips in Mind
Whether you’re a recent college graduate, former stay-at-home mom turned business woman, or anyone in between, you’ll want to keep the following networking tips in mind to ensure your entrance into the corporate world is as seamless as possible.
- Dress Professionally
What you wear says a lot about you. While it’s okay to look stylish, avoid trying to be a trendsetter. You can wear the latest designer clothing on the weekends. During the week – and especially when you know you’ll be networking – wear conservative business attire that shows you take yourself seriously.
- Design a Standout Business Card
“Your business cards are an extension of your business,” says Hotcards, a printing company with a focus on marketing. “They are used for networking, shared with clients and most importantly, placed in those fishbowls in restaurants to win a free meal.” All jokes aside, if you want to excel at networking, you need a quality business card to fall back on.
If someone asks for your information in a networking situation, it’s not appropriate to grab a napkin and write down your name and phone number. While they may not directly say it, they’re asking for a business card. Carrying around cards with you is considered professional; don’t get caught without one.
- Master the First Impression
The key to effective networking is mastering the first impression. While you’ll hear business coaches discuss dozens of different points and strategies, successfully making a first impression generally comes down to three things:
- Eye contact. The first thing you want to think about is eye contact. Whether you spot someone from across the room or accidently bump into them, eye contact lets the other individual know that you want to speak with them. A lack of eye contact says you have something to hide.
- Handshake. Your handshake also says a lot about you. A short, limp handshake puts you in a position of weakness, whereas a strong, extended shake gives you a certain level of power and authority. As a rule of thumb, begin shaking the other person’s hand when you give them your name and let go after both names have been exchanged.
- Emotion. Finally, you need to show a little emotion. You don’t want to appear giddy or unprofessional, but a brief smile and some facial expressions can help alleviate pressure and humanize the interaction.
As you can see, first impressions aren’t as difficult as some people make them out to be. If you can make eye contact, give a firm handshake, and convey some emotion, you’ll be just fine.
- Understand How/When to Follow Up
For some, interacting with people is easy. It’s the following up that’s difficult. Sound familiar? Good networkers understand the art of following up after an initial introduction. There’s a whole science to it, but you can read more about the topic by checking out this guide by Darrah Brustein of YEC Women.
Don’t Let Networking Scare You
Networking can be intimating, that’s for sure. However, it doesn’t need to be scary. Always remember that networking is just as awkward for the other party as it is for you. The more you practice interacting with people, the easier it will become to have natural conversations that lead to sustainable business relationships down the road. Keep these four tips in mind and you’ll be just fine.
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