Professional Networking 101
What do you think of when you hear the word “networking?” Do you think of a cluster of wires and cables (a computer network), mastering a social profile (social network) or your local television station (news network)? Do you think of expanding your business through professional relationships (professional networking)?
Professional networking involves mastering the science of building and maintaining professional relationships with colleagues, peers, suppliers, counterparts, and other industry professionals. Having a great relationship with your clients is an important part of your business, but maintaining professional relationships with others in the industry is also imperative to your business success.
Typically, a local area will host networking events for various industries. This might involve something like a job fair, a fashion show, or a design trade show. These are all great opportunities to promote your personal brand or business as well as expand your professional network. You never know what connection you might make that will benefit you weeks or even months later.
But what is the proper networking “etiquette”? This list of do’s and don’ts is a great place to start:
DO bring some business cards with you
Keep them within easy reach. Make sure that the information on your business card is up-to-date and accurate so that professionals will have no problem contacting you. Keep in mind that you don’t need to give your card to everyone, and be smart about you who choose.
DON’T be afraid to ask for advice
Most people will be flattered that you are asking for their professional advice, as it indicates you think they are very knowledgeable in their field.
DO dress to impress
If you’ve only got two minutes to make a killer first impression and you’re dressed in jeans and a baggy t-shirt, chances are people are already making assumptions about you without even having spoken with you. If you look poised and professional, the assumption will follow.
DON’T forget to thank everyone
Remember everyone within your networking who has helped you. This is preferably done via hand-written note instead of email as it adds the personal touch that email lacks.
DO wear a nametag on your right-hand side
Most people shake hands with their right hand, and their eye is naturally drawn to your right side during this process. You want people to remember your name!
DON’T spend too much time with anyone in particular
You’re there to network with as many people as you can. Don’t cut conversations short, but try to find an appropriate time to exit the conversation and move on.
DO avoid alcoholic beverages
Maintain a professional vibe and stick to water or juice.
DON’T eat too much
Many networking events provide food for attendees, but if your mouth is full every time someone comes to chat, you’re not going to make very much progress. Grab a bite before the event.