Networking-smNo matter where you are in your career, networking is an important skill set to cultivate and put to use.  If you’re one of those people who cringes at the thought of attending a networking event, putting a plan in place will help calm your fears.  Or if you’ve decided to build your network strictly through online tools, some recruiters and coaches told The Wall Street Journal that relying on virtual interaction is a sign of an ineffective networking strategy.  Face to face is the key to truly effective networking.

Needing a networking-for-introverted-people primer isn’t unusual. Like with everything in life, some people are naturals while others need guidance and practice.  Workingmother.com offers this advice:

  • Master your elevator speech.
  • Treat everything you do inside or outside of work as networking.
  • Volunteer to exercise your networking muscles.
  • Ask not what’s in it for you, but what’s in it for “them.”

The next time you’re invited to a networking event, rather than hit the delete button when you get that dreaded email, make a plan and be purposeful.   Use these 6 easy, effective tips to make the event work in your favor.

  • When you arrive, greet the folks you already know and keep moving. Don’t use them as your excuse for not meeting new people.
  • Set an event goal to expand your network by meeting 4 to 5 new people and exchanging contact information.
  • Have a few conversation starters in mind, phrases such as, “I see you work for XYZ company. What’s your role there?”  Or, “This is my first time here.  Tell me about your connection with this group.”
  • Give the person you’re speaking with your full attention. No wandering eyes or distracted behavior.
  • Make the tone of your comments positive and upbeat. You want people to feel good about having met you.
  • When it’s time to move on, shake hands, call the person by name and say, “It was good to meet you. I’m going to move on and say hello to a few others.”

Having a plan provides you with ways to start a conversation that’s mutually beneficial and enjoyable.  And it will open doors to opportunities and knowledge building that you can get no other way.

For more tips on thriving in today’s workplace, listen to my Office Talk Reports at TMGSpeaks.com.

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