By: TSP Blog | @TSProckstars
The third (and final part) of our personal branding series is all about networking. According to Merriam-Webster, networking is the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. While it is important to develop a well-rounded online network, making those connections in-person is equally, if not more, important. In fact, studies show that 85 percent of all jobs are filled via networking.
Not only is networking helpful when you first begin your career, but it is also a key factor in building that personal brand you’ve been working on. For those of you who are ready to start networking but don’t know where to begin, we have three pieces of advice for you: (1) find the perfect group, (2) prepare in advance and (3) execute on your prep.
FINDING YOUR NETWORK
The first step in networking is deciding where to network. As we mentioned in our previous post, Forbes recommends the 3c’s as a good starting point: company, college and colleagues. While this is a great place to start, it’s also a good idea to look outside of your comfort zone. For the most part, many cities have various networking groups for different ages, industries and interests.
While joining a group with colleagues or attending an event with a friend may be a little less nerve-wracking, attending on your own is a great way to practice your people skills and expand your reach beyond your existing network. If you do choose to go off on your own, a little preparation before-hand is an excellent way to ensure your success.
PREPARING YOUR NETWORK
If you’re hesitant about joining a new group or attending a networking event solo, you’re not alone. The key to easing nerves? Preparation. Depending on what makes you uncomfortable or nervous in a social situation, there is most likely a way you can combat these feelings of anxiety. For those who struggle with thinking on their feet, a great way to ease nerves is to prepare questions and talking points ahead of time. By doing so, you’ll be well equipped to hop into the conversation at any given point.
Another important part in preparing to network is doing your research. Most networking events have a host, a topic of conversation and sometimes a panel of industry experts. Knowing what you’re walking in to is an excellent way to attend a networking event with confidence. For those key attendees, do a little research on their background – you may even find you have some things in common, which can make for a great conversation starter and make the actual networking event a lot easier.
You’ve selected the event (or group), you’ve done your prep and now comes the hard part: the actual event. First impressions can be tricky, even if you’re a seasoned networker, but we’re here to help. Research shows that body language accounts for 55 percent of an overall message, while tone-of-voice accounts for 38 percent and words at only 7 percent. This means that if you seem closed-off or speak in an aloof tone, your message will most likely be lost – even if the words you’re saying are exactly what your meaning.
The second key to networking? Showing you care and being honestly interested in those around you. Our phones have become a natural extension of ourselves, but we urge you to turn your phone off, or better yet, leave it in the car. If you’re worried about missing an emergency call or text, let those in your inner circle know that you will be unreachable for a couple hours so they don’t panic when you don’t respond.
As you take on the world of networking, keep in mind that you are a reflection not only on your company, but also of your brand. While it is important to find the right networking group and prepare in advance, it is equally important to stay on-message at said event. We hope that with a little help from this blog, you feel fully equipped to take on the world of in-person networking.