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Professional Networking: Making it Count

Professional Networking: Making it Count

The ultimate goal of networking is to build meaningful and lasting professional relationships that benefit both parties, according to a recent article in the Boston Globe written by Ellen Keiley with the law firm K&L Gates.

Keiley, who consolidates a range of advice from networking experts, notes that while social media has certainly boosted an individual's ability to connect with people in their field, attending events and meeting people face-to-face continues to be extremely valuable.

The key to these events is the manner in which the individual prepares and follows up afterwards, and Keiley offers a number of strategies to ensure a strong impression is cultivated through these meetings.

As New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady often notes, the hardest work during his season is the preparation leading up to a game. When it comes to networking, this also holds true, as professionals should do everything they can prior to the event to ensure that they feel comfortable meeting people and building relationships.

First, Keiley notes, there are basic things to remember before attending a networking event, including eating beforehand and dressing appropriately for the specific setting. The Daily Muse reports it is critical to have a goal in mind before heading to the event, whether this means meeting a specific number of people or generating a new job lead.

According to the Daily Muse, it is also important to bring more business cards than you expect to hand out, because there is nothing worse than running out of them just before networking with an important contact.

When it comes to the meeting itself, Keiley suggests bringing a friend or colleague to help ease some of the pressure. Your introduction is also key, and Keiley advises that you should not just ask for business, but rather look to genuinely meet people and establish the foundation for a relationship.

One important rule to remember, according to Keiley, is to not interrupt individuals who are engaged in conversation. Find a way to naturally work your way into a discussion with a contact, and allow them to speak first, as this demonstrates that you truly care what the person has to say. It can also make them more attentive when they ask you questions, as they will be relaxed and comfortable, according to the Daily Muse.

After you accomplish the goals you set out for yourself during the networking event, the work is not over. Rather than simply resting on your laurels and hoping something comes of the event, make sure to follow up with your new contacts through a personal note, Keiley says. Following up on LinkedIn is another valuable step to take, but it is important to make it a personalized message.

Again, it is crucial to demonstrate the mutual reasons to keep in touch with each other during the follow-up process, rather than simply asking for career advice or assistance. Understanding when to quit and not wearing out your welcome is also key, according to Keiley.

Taking notes can be one of the most effective ways to ensure a smooth follow-up after the networking event, the Daily Muse notes. Because it's unlikely that you will remember all the important details of your conversations, it can be helpful to take a break after meeting a few contacts and jot down notes that can help you later on. The key to networking is building lasting relationships, and the finer details of your conversation can pave the way for connecting down the line. 

For more information on networking effectively, check out Proformative's recent webinar: Effective Networking: Before, During and After