Everyone knows that networking is a critical part of entering the professional world. But what separates the good networkers from the great? Here are four helpful tips to distinguish you from the competition.
Step #1 – Know your audience
If you are attending an organized event, do research on the employer’s ahead of time. Remember, knowledge is power. Familiarizing yourself with the company as well as the individuals you plan on speaking with will give you a considerable advantage over the competition. And the best part? Doing so is easy now that everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.
Step #2 – Suit up
Batman would be nothing without his slick mask, awesome gadgets, and signature cape. Whether we like to admit it or not, looking the part is a big part of the equation. Dressing professionally communicates that you take not only your time seriously, but others’ as well.
So what? Does that mean you have to start shopping for three-piece suits and pearl necklaces? Short answer – it depends. Some professionals will prefer to talk business with someone wearing a tie, whereas others will be satisfied as long as your button-down shirt is tucked in with a belt. There are those who prefer aspiring professionals to wear blazers and knee-length skirts while others are fine with a blouse and a pair of dress pants.
When it is the morning of the job fair and you are still debating between the two outfits you put together the night before, always go with your more conservative option. It is always better to overdress than to be under dressed.
Step #3 – Relate to others
As you attempt to impress potential employers or future colleagues, it is easy to forget that you are dealing with people. Before attempting to establish a new professional relationship, assess each setting and person on a broader level. What is the atmosphere like? Are you at a job fair or a fundraising dinner? Is this the right time to talk about the job opening, or should I stick to pleasantries for tonight? Is this employer the no-nonsense type, or do they seem to enjoy discussing last night’s game? Asking yourself these type of questions will help you determine what course of action is most appropriate to implement.
If the answer is still unclear, placing yourself in someone else’s shoes is a reliable next step. Would you like to be interrupted by an eager young professional while you are trying to enjoy yourself at a company banquet? Or would you prefer it if this potential hire scheduled an appointment and met with you during business hours?
It is incredibly important to remain likable, personable, and memorable. After a future boss or business partner walks away from a conversation, they will, even if it is just for a split second, reflect on your exchange. If they conclude that your conversation was indeed pleasant, they will be all the more likely to see you as a good fit for their company. At the very least, you will have successfully added them onto a list of people who will be delighted to speak favorably on your behalf. That being said, a certain level of professionalism and decorum is always appreciated.
Step #4 – Walk the walk
Great job! You successfully added another contact to your current network. That’s it, right? Not quite…
This is the part where an attention to detail becomes of the utmost importance. In order to make your new relationship meaningful, go that extra mile to solidify the favorable first impression you worked so hard at achieving. If you promised to do something such as forwarding over your resume, or offering to introduce someone to one of your personal connections, it is imperative you do so. Sending a follow-up email expressing how grateful you are to have been given the opportunity to meet with someone is a nice touch. Point is, follow through! This may seem trivial, but doing what you said you were going to do proves you are diligent, competent, and most importantly, capable of completing tasks.
Actions most definitely speak louder than words. That being said, it is always good to remember that the words we choose to speak either shape or break our professional reputations. To wrap this last tip up in a nice little bow, remember that you are only as good as your word, and your word only has meaning when it is coupled with action.