By Beverly R. Daniel, MS, MBA
One way to measure a successful career is to determine the length and depth of your professional network. As all successful professionals know, one needs to attend professional networking events and build a large group of contacts.
Here are some essential steps for you to take now:
- Find out where the major people that you need to meet go and know who will be in attendance, on a visible panel, or a keynote speaker.
- Create a list of at least 3-5 organizations that provide the events that interest you.
- Be aware that these organizations offer networking events. Determine the time of day that is optimal for you to attend such as breakfast, lunch, or evening programs. If it is the cocktail hour, large groups of people at all levels will turn out for these events. Forget the cocktail aspects (although that will bring out the crowds) and create a plan for what you need to accomplish if you attend.
Now that you have determined the time of day that is best for you and where you can find a critical mass of contacts in your field, try to find someone to join you and set limits for how much time you will spend with that person during the actual networking event. Professionals are ten times more likely to venture out to these new networking events if they have a colleague or friend that is willing to join them.
Be sure that you are appropriately and professionally dressed every day. You could get a call from someone at 4 p.m. about an event the same evening with important people that you need to know and have in your database. You should be prepared at all times if you get a last minute invitation.
So, you have an important networking event to attend this evening? Have your business cards ready to hand out. Have a good pitch to use when you introduce yourself. Your pitch needs to be authentic, not too long and memorable as well. Be sure to create a good impression on the people you meet.
The most important behavior that needs to be exhibited is a keen interest in the new people that you meet. Listen carefully, so you can remember what you hear. If you listen well, you will know what to do next. If you decide that you would like to follow up with this person, ask for their business card and when it would be a good time to follow up. It is fine to scan the card into your handheld device, but then be sure to turn your cell phone OFF; do not text or email anyone during a conversation with a new contact. It is rude to make that person feel he/she is less important than someone else.
If you have been “on top of your game” thus far, don’t drop the ball now. The follow-up is the most import aspect of networking. If you don’t follow up, your networking activities are for naught. Would you like to learn more about this person? Send an email to try to set up a lunch or a short in-office meeting. Send an article that you have read that may be of interest to your new contact. Place this new person’s info into your data hub.
If you can follow most of this career advice on how to create and be successful at building a network, you will become more successful and you will be more visible. Summer is an ideal time of year for outdoor networking. Be sure to schedule some worthwhile events that will take place soon.
Beverly Daniel is a career counselor/coach, who helps career professionals move successfully from one level of their careers to another. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 980-2525.