Get ready to start networking! If you’re uncomfortable with the process or unfamiliar with the best ways to go about it, don’t worry. These fail-safe tips will help you effectively develop a network of IT professionals.
– Put yourself out there: The first step of any kind of networking is to put yourself out there. When people don’t know that you exist, you can’t build relationships with them. For the best results, blend your networking across multiple platforms. Attending a handful of networking events with your coworkers is a good start, but it only addresses one of the potential areas of networking that you should be participating in. According to Business Network International’s Misner, participating in a networking group breaks down into four types.
1) Casual contact networks (networking events or industry mixers)
2) Knowledge networks (professional associations)
3) Strong contact networks (groups that meet frequently specifically to build professional relationships)
4) Online networks (professional social media services, such as LinkedIn) Using this blended approach will help you develop the kind of comprehensive network that benefits your career across all of the above avenues. Need help finding some of these groups? Meetup.com is a great resource for finding groups that meet frequently and LinkedIn has a variety of technical groups where you can mingle with IT professionals and make meaningful connections.
– Ask questions, listen & say their name: A smile goes a long way when you’re networking in person but, with the variety of online avenues for IT professionals to connect, there are a few steadfast rules you can use to make a positive first impressions. Remember, these first impressions provide the bedrock that your lasting connections will be built on.
1) Ask Questions: Instead of barging into a conversation with an opinion, make your entrance with a question. This is a less awkward, more engaging way of staring a conversation with people you’ve never met before. Continue to emphasize questions throughout your initial meeting. You’ll learn more about each contact early on and it will be easier to carry on an engaging conversation.
2) Listen: Asking questions, no matter how brilliant they may be, will prove useless if you aren’t willing to listen to responses with sincere interest. Listening to people’s experiences and opinions will lead to great conversations and develop a more valuable communication that leads to valuable connections.
3) Say his or her name: Ever since Dale Carnegie pointed out the importance of saying someone’s name during a conversation in the bestselling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, it’s been a cornerstone of networking. Obviously, you have to say more than that person’s name to create meaningful communication, but sprinkling someone’s name into your conversation will help strangers and acquaintances feel more comfortable, like you already know them and they already know you.