Nothing replaces that physical handshake, even though these days, virtually everyone’s connecting on Facebook and other social media platforms. Still, collecting digital relationships is not so different from that stack of business cards you once stuffed in your pocket or purse. Social media tools are immensely useful, but are you also forming a social network that includes in-person conversations?
“Your network only has as much value as you put into it,” says Patty Azzarello, author of the book, “RISE: How to be Really Successful at Work AND Like Your Life.” She shares with her readers the two basic rules of networking: “Give when you don’t need anything,” and “always give more than you take.”
With that in mind, consider these five ways to network in the real world.
- Remember it’s all about quality, not quantity. Will a potential employer really be impressed by the number of LinkedIn followers you have? Or, will they be more likely to care about those one or two glowing references? Personal relationships do matter when networking. “Slow it down and don’t try to meet the entire world on LinkedIn,” says Diane Darling, founder and CEO of Effective Networking, Inc., in Boston. “If you have 5,000 people in your network, it’s not humanly possible to maintain that network well.”
- Be friendly and outgoing. Stepping out of your comfort zone, walking up to a stranger, and introducing yourself may take some practice, but doing so can open the door to what may turn out to be an enduring friendship. Don’t wait for someone to approach you, because shyness may hold them back.
- Follow up with new connections. Keep in touch with your business contacts, sharing news and conversation every few weeks. Darius Kazemi, a writer for the Tiny Subversions blog says: “Networking is a pretty useless activity, if the people you meet don’t remember you.” So, be sure to hand out plenty of business cards, along with your friendly smile.
- Remember those personal details. Focus on what others say to you, and then commit it to memory. Be attentive, taking note of what is important to that particular individual. What are their dreams, ideas and goals? Then, mention a few of those details the next time you see the person. For example, tell your “foodie” friend about a new restaurant that just opened, or share a tidbit of sports trivia with someone who lives and dies for that Sunday afternoon televised football game.
- Offer help to those in your social network. Encourage others with positive feedback, and also remember to thank those who gave you referrals, or vouched for your expertise.