Over the past year and a half I have been with SAP I’ve made it a personal action plan to network as much as possible. So, I did what most do, attended events and set up countless one on ones. Even though they’re two different things, I picked up on a single theme.
Time and time again the advice doled out to myself and the audience is that networking is a powerful tool. It can be a catalyst to your next role, help you learn about the organization you’re working in, and maybe help you decide where you want to take your next step. It can also be a life raft floating you to employment if you ever find yourself without a job.
Now I’m not saying because I enjoy networking I’m a pro, every one has lessons they’ve yet to learn, but after some personal trial and error, as well as watching others crash and burn. I’ve curated a few networking tips worth sharing.
Here are a few networking tips to live by
- Don’t be a desperate networker. The following tips go in a somewhat sequential order, however I wanted to highlight this one first. I haven’t been in the working world long, but I noticed one thing three times already: don’t wait to network. By the time you’re desperate you won’t have cultivated the relationships you need. It’s not just about hard work, there are plenty of people who have worked hard their whole lives and are still out of job. Your network is the top asset in your business tool box.
- Be on time. And if you can’t be, either reschedule or pick up the phone and call to say you will be late. It doesn’t matter how great you are, someone took time out of their day to possibly help you and by not respecting their time you’ve almost immediately lost their sponsorship. If it’s an event, the cliché “fashionably late” does not apply. Arriving early gives you an advantage over the latecomers, no one has settled into their groups yet and there’s an opportunity to have a personal conversation with someone, sans the awkward group.
- Be authentic. Networking isn’t about being formal; it’s about building a bond you may be able to cash in on later. Be funny, and if you’re not funny be lighthearted and pleasant. This will not only make you feel more comfortable because you’ll be wearing your own skin, but it will also make it easier for someone else to open up. That’s the key because if you don’t learn anything about them, how will you follow up?
- Smile with arms wide open. No, don’t hug them. But don’t cross your arms (thanks for that one Mom – you were right). This follows up with number three. Would you approach someone who looked unhappy and unapproachable? No, definitely not. So make sure you’re not that person.
- You never know… This is one I had to have my (patient) mentor remind me of, just because the person isn’t senior management doesn’t mean they can’t help one way or another. Especially because you never know whose in that persons network. Be polite and remember just because they aren’t senior management doesn’t mean they might not know the person you’re targeting.
- Follow up. Take the time to write a brief “nice to meet you note” and highlight a personal detail from your conversation. If you can, do this over email rather than over LinkedIn. I understand you might need to connect with that person first, but as soon as they accept, which they will if you follow networking tips 1 through 3.
- Last but not least, believe in the power of karma. What comes around goes around and what you dole out you’ll be sure to be graced with. I’m not saying slack on your day job to help someone else find one, but truly try your hardest to help someone when they ask you for your support.
What are some networking tips you’ve learned and would like to share?