I don’t try to hide that I am old. I regularly share that I did not use a PC while in college and, at my first job, I was given the desk with the IBM PC simply because no one else in the office wanted to deal with the thing. That said, I am equally open about my willingness to embrace new technologies and new ways of doing things.
I hope this general outlook gives me enough credibility when I say that some things just need to be done the old-fashioned way. I feel that way about today’s post topic – networking. Sure, you can connect with fellow professionals and target audiences online. In fact, I just did a webinar on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile to make the right connections. However, there is just no replacement for face-to-face networking.
Whether you are happy in your current job or looking to advance inside or outside of your current company, you have to network. This means attending events just to meet people. It means introducing yourself when there are people in a meeting that you do not know. It means becoming active in professional associations.
Networking is one of the most important ways to get new ideas. The next person you meet may have faced a similar challenge to the one you are looking at now and have some experience-based ideas for how to tackle it. He or she may ask a question that will help you understand the value of what you do (and do not) know.
The next person you meet may know of a job opening for which you are a perfect fit. If not today, maybe next month, next year, or even in a few years. When I was in a job search last summer, I was amazed by the tips I got from people I had met years ago.
Now that I have you convinced, let me offer some help for your next networking experience. One of the hardest things about networking events is just getting a conversation going with someone without being awkward about it.
Here are some tips and tricks for easy ways to break the ice:
- While at the food or snack table, talk to the person next to you. Use the food as a conversation starter – what looks good? what is that?
- Look for someone who is alone to engage one-on-one rather than trying to get into a group conversation. Introduce yourself and let them know that you appreciate the opportunity to meet without a crowd.
- Look for people you can approach with a compliment. Did they just speak and say something interesting? Do you like the person’s handbag/shoes/tie/shirt? Everyone likes a compliment. compliment.
- Lead with a smile and an outstretched hand. Sometimes, the easiest way to meet someone is to offer a handshake and say, “Hi, I’m –.”
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