We have all heard this before: “It isn’t what you know, it is who you know.” In today’s business world this statement is extremely true. Networking is very important to land you the job that you want or to make contacts that will help enhance your business. What is networking? According to the Business Dictionary, networking is “creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.” It is a great way to share information and create contacts for future job or business prospects. We actually networking every day with people that we meet, customers, clients and even family and friends. Being able to communicate freely with these people will actually help making networking with strangers much easier.
Networking is difficult. It is not a favorite pastime for people, but it is vital to staying employed, career and business growth. For people who are introverts, network is not something that that they want to do, but once you get out there to actually start networking, you will become more comfortable doing it. Below are a seven tips to make networking easier to handle:
1. Find Networking Events in Your Area
Most major cities in the United States have networking events, tech meet-ups, marketing and sales groups and more. It is just a matter of finding the right one for you. Google “Networking Events in Cleveland” and you will see an entire list pop up in the search results. There are events happening throughout the day from breakfasts through after work hours. We will list a few great networking groups, including chamber of commerce, which are great for small and start-up businesses a bit later in this article.
2. Research Attendees Beforehand
Before the networking event, research on the list of attendees and pick out the ones that you would like to meet. This will allow you to plan more substantial conversations with people in your field. If you are feeling more confident, reach out to these attendees before the event, so you can set-up one-on-one sessions
3. Make a Good First Impression
When you are at a networking event, you have 10 seconds max to make a first impression. It is important to come across as a confident business professional. Dress professionally for the networking events. Have a firm handshake, uncrossed arms with your head and chest up. Make sure you smile to the people around you, even if you are extremely nervous!
4. Elevator Pitch
A great way to introduce yourself to a new group of people is by having an elevator pitch, which is a 30 second introduction about yourself, your position at your job, or what your company does. This helps fill in awkward silences after you have just met a new person at a networking event. Once you have given your elevator pitch, then ask your networking companion about themselves. This will help get the conversation moving and continuing.
5. Take your Time
Set a realistic number of people that you would like to meet at your first few networking events. When you are beginning to network, start out with a smaller number of people that you want to meet. As you become more comfortable with doing the events, set the goal for the number of people want to meet higher. You will learn to be more strategic with people that you meet at networking events as you do more of them. The sixty to ninety minutes of a networking event will be intense and actually go by much quicker than you think.
6. Collect Business Cards
Business cards are still extremely useful for sharing and collecting contact information as well as a quick place to put notes about a conversation. Business cards are important even for people who are in-between jobs. The cards can share the personality of the networker, their business and even some of their skills.
7. Follow Up
Following up after a networking event is a must do after attending a networking event. Connect with the new contacts via LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Sending a personalized email to your new contacts with a simple greeting such as: “It was very nice to meet you at the networking event on Tuesday evening. Your new business venture sounds very interesting and I wish you the best of luck with it. Let me know if I can be of any help with your future endeavors.” If you are very bold, you can set up a time to meet for coffee or lunch to discuss matters further.
Networking in Cleveland
There are many ways to network in the Cleveland area. If you want to focus on your particular career, you can find specific organizations and associations within your area. These are great ways to meet people who know exactly what you are talking about with your industry. If you are starting a business, a great place to start networking is by joining your local Chamber of Commerce. You can join the chamber in the city where your business is located or you can join a chamber where you might get more business contacts. Cleveland has a very large Chamber of Commerce called The Greater Cleveland Partnership to help promote businesses in the city. The communities of Lakewood, Rocky River, and other west side communities including Westlake all have strong chambers of commerce.
There are always networking events taking place in Cleveland and can easily be found doing a Google search. Most gatherings occur on a monthly basis such as Network After Work, which meets as restaurants around Cleveland directly after the work day.
Another great source of networking and you might not even know it, is just having a conversation with your stylist at Men’s Cuts! You can even practice your elevator pitch with your stylist! Share your business card with us during your next visit and it could lead to new business contacts. Once you become comfortable with networking, you will find that it is a very worthwhile activity and your professional and business contacts will grow, which will help you prosper.