By: Katie Gabriel, Senior Business Development Director
We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” Networking is a key component in how we conduct business today. Whether it’s digitally through social media or in person at events, in our hyper connected world, it’s important now more than ever to build connections within your professional community. Whether you’re looking for a new role, gaining new business contacts or looking to hire someone on your team, growing your professional network is a sure fire way to expand your career.
When attending networking events, many people offer the same trusted advice: bring business cards, give a strong handshake, make eye contact, listen and be curious, etc. But to be a super connector, it is what you do before and after the networking event that will make the difference.
To hone your networking muscles and become a super connector, remember these tips.
1. Grow your network early
Networking takes time and dedication. With our busy work and personal lives, networking often doesn’t happen unless we intentionally set aside time to connect. Take a look at your calendar. When was the last time you met with someone outside your company? How much time each month are you putting into developing your professional network?
Often as finance, accounting and human resources professionals, we keep our blinders on and only focus on the work in front of us. By doing so, we miss opportunities to gain market intelligence and build connections that may serve us in the future. You need to lift your head, look around and find out what’s happening outside your company. Create time in your schedule to meet with people outside your industry. You shouldn’t wait to network when you’re looking for a new role. Plant the seeds now so you have a network to tap into when you’re ready. Is your company hiring? Are you looking for a new role? Need a fresh perspective on a work challenge? You’ll be glad you made connections.
2. Differentiate yourself with follow up
Once you’ve made a connection at a networking event, follow-up is key to building that relationship. Meeting someone once typically isn’t enough to create a meaningful, lasting connection. By following up, you will be on the road to creating a partnership with your new contact.
Here are some tips to making a successful connection:
- Save contact information: Add their contact information to your system (CRM, email contact list, etc). Business cards can get lost easily. Store contact information digitally so you have it on hand for the future.
- Follow up right away. Connect on LinkedIn within 48 hours, ideally with a personalized message. If a longer conversation is appropriate, follow up with an email and set up a time to meet. Often there isn’t enough time to dig deep into conversations at networking events.
- Stay connected: Find ways to stay connected and bring value to your network: reach out as you come across relevant articles or invite them to professional events you are attending.
Networking is a skill you have to build, much like any technical expertise. To become a super connector, begin by being really intentional about building meaningful relationships. Start connecting now so you can grow your network and give back to your professional community. After all, it’s not just what and who you know, but also how you pay it forward.
Katie Gabriel is a Senior Business Development Director in our Minneapolis office.