Recently, I took a trip to the San Francisco Zoo and was pleasantly surprised to not only learn that it features Penguin Island, boosting hundreds of Magellanic penguins, but that it also staffs its very own Penguinologist. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Though I wasn’t able to meet this mystery person, I remained intrigued by the title.
So, I did a simple search that revealed a fairly basic definition: “Penguinologist is a career in studying penguins and their complex lives”. I’m thinking the same thing you are—what in the world does that mean?!
Imagining this person at a networking event, I realized their situation might be similar to that of what marketers experience when they, too, have to explain what they do for work. With all their various responsibilities within their ever-changing role in the today’s complex marketing landscape, describing their jobs to others may get complicated, so they may find a way to trim it down.
True, in networking it’s smart to keep things simple and smooth, but you don’t want to be too simple and smooth. Otherwise, you won’t be memorable. Good networking can be tricky unless you are prepared with the right tools and message to keep the conversation flowing.
So, here are three bulletproof networking tips to help marketers (and penguinologists alike):
1. Put Yourself out There
Building solid social networks is as easy as sliding down an ice luge on your belly. Really, it is! Start out by finding networking events that include these three criteria:
- Are close in proximity, so you can attend as many as possible.
- Occur in a regular cadence, so you can build and nurture relationships.
- Attract people who have similar interests as you, so you have something to discuss.
Online social sites such as LinkedIn, Network After Work, and Meetup can facilitate your search for such events. By growing your social network, you are enhancing your networking skills and are also creating long-term connections. Keeping others in the loop of new ventures, responsibilities, and skills can help you stay ahead of the competition by increasing your credibility and career. Keeping the connection open is important so if something unexpected happens—like losing a job—you’re ready with a solid network of opportunities.
The key is to stay connected.
2. Start off on the Right Foot
Pretty much your opening line at any networking event is always a synopsis of what you do for a living. Since we live in a world of one hundred and forty characters or less, explaining your role is best kept short—but short doesn’t mean boring. Seasoned networkers have met numerous people from the industry and have heard every (boring) job description in the book, so you want to impress them with a cleverly-worded description of your job that will either make them chuckle or make them think. Overall, your goal is to be unique and make a lasting impression. And with this typically being your opening line, there’s no better time to do it.
Practicing your newly crafted elevator pitch should be done by not only reciting it to yourself, but also by hitting the road with your pitch. Ask your friends and co-workers to listen and offer feedback. Take their advice and revise your description to better suit the intended audience (e.g. marketing professionals or marketing executives). Then memorize it so that you have that home-run of an icebreaker every time.
3. Take the Plunge! (But Not into the Arctic…)
Networking is often thought of as an external facing discussion. Yet to truly jump in, you should use both internal and external networking to better build your skills.
Building solid relationships with your own team members can advance your career, too. Every time you reach out, you learn something new. And from these mentoring relationships, you can advance connections and your position within the workplace.
Networking outside of your immediate group can also bring instant value to your current position. By connecting with the right people at the right time, you can partner yourself with influential people who can help support solutions. When an issue arises that needs outside influence, you will have people who are ready on deck.
Networking with many different roles makes for varied connections and brings more value. Then you’re one step ahead—at the right place, at the right time, and with the right people in mind.
Bringing It All Together
As marketers it is almost a requirement to be a stellar networker, so use these three tips to help shape and develop your skills. Remember—it’s easy to get lost in a crowd of vocal penguins, but your voice should be heard, for that’s the point of networking in the first place—making yourself known! Anyone can easily go to a networking event, grab a stack of business cards, and leave. The best networkers, however, stick around and bring value to the conversation, therefore leaving a lasting impression on others.