Superwoman's Networking Handbook Part I
Originally published on MsCareerGirl.com
Whether you’re just starting off in your career, switching industries all together or looking to get better connected in your current field, networking skills are one of the most valuable skill sets you can have. The most exciting part about networking? You never know when you might come across a “Connector,” defined by Malcolm Gladwell as, “the type of person who knows everyone” in The Tipping Point (great read by the way if you need some inspiration to get out there and start meeting people!)
Here’s a great example…
A personal training client of mine connected me to her classmate from grad school, who is Editor-in-Chief of a women’s online magazine which resulted in my first opportunity to be a contributing writer. That would have been great enough but check this out…
Online magazine Editor-In-Chief connected me to:
- Two Hollywood Publicists who combined connect me to two published authors, one famous actress/filmmaker/dancer, a celebrity spa owner and a celebrity personal trainer.
- NY Times Best-Selling author of one of 2010’s top women’s self help books.
- One of the most followed inspirational people on Twitter.
- The owners and designers of an up and coming accessory line.
- Owner of holistic wellness boutique in NYC who’s been featured everywhere from Elle Magazine to the Dr. Oz show.
And I could go on for days with a flow chart that stems out from these connections, but I’m sure you get the point. Now let’s get the specifics.
5 Networking Tips
- Set your objectives. What kind of networking are you trying to do and why? Figure this out first because later on I’m going to tell you to get out there and attend some events. Networking events usually aren’t free, so you’ll want to choose wisely.
- Research. Start with a Google search of networking groups in a) your industry, and/or b) an area of interest for you (i.e. women’s networking groups, entrepreneurs, publishing, fashion…etc.) that are c) in your area. Example: “women’s networking groups, NY, NY.” Take your time visiting the websites of what your search yields.
- What to look for: Always read the “About” first, to get an exact picture of the group’s objectives so you can see if it’s right for you, or if you should move on to the next one. (We’re trying to network here, not waste our time!)
- Don’t join yet! If you find a group you’d consider joining, attend a few of their events first before investing in annual dues. Often, it’s cheaper to just pay the non-member rate for a few events throughout the course of the year.
- Do more research at the events. Chances are the people at the events have attended several others for that group and others. Don’t forget to ask how they like the group and what others they’d recommend. (Word of mouth is, and always will be the best form of advertising and referrals!)
- BNI International: BNI is the largest business networking organization in the world. Annual dues are kind of pricey, but if you have the budget, it’s definitely worth it. Click the link to find a chapter near you and to learn more about BNI.
3. Prepare your elevator speech and practice it! If you’re not familiar with the good ol’ elevator speech, put simply, it’s the answer to “What do you do?” Imagine you’re lucky enough to be in the elevator for a few floors with the person who could make all your professional dreams come true, how would you describe (in 60s or less) what you do (or what you’re capable of) and what makes you special. Write it down, edit, and re-edit. Be familiar enough with it so that you can convey it conversationally in a manner that shows your personality, passion and enthusiasm for what you’re out to accomplish.
4. Get in there and make a great impression girl! You want to show up to events armed with plenty of business cards, dressed in an outfit that makes you feel confident and, if possible, displays what you do.
Example: I’m a health and fitness professional, I always wear something classy and flattering that shows I practice what I preach. I’ve seen owners of jewelry businesses wear a piece from their line, a stylist looking extremely fashionable, finance people looking more professional in suits…you get the point.
5. Don’t wait for people to approach you. Whether you’re shy or outgoing, you must be prepared to introduce yourself to people. Not sure where to start? “Hi, I’m [your name], (smile, and put your hand out for a firm handshake).” Conversation usually flows pretty easily from there (especially when you have a great elevator speech ready to go!)
Remember ladies, there are two kinds of people in the world, those who wait for things to happen to them, and those who get out there and make things happen. Now you have the tools to getting started at events.
Stay tuned for Superwoman’s Networking Handbook Part II where I’ll cover how to follow up with all the connections you make.
Please comment below! I want to hear your questions, success stories, personal networking best practices or group recommendations.Superwoman's Networking Handbook Part I