One of the keys to success is having a network that you can leverage effectively. The ability to network is truly an art that many people take for granted. Networking is not about how many business cards you can handout in a room. It is the ability to meet new people and maintain healthy relationships with them through all seasons.  Remember the saying, “For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”? You must build your network before you need it.

Countless times I see people trying to go to as many networking events as they can because they lost their job, or because they just graduated. Networking is a behavior that should be ingrained in your DNA in order to properly leverage its benefits. Networking can be a daunting task, especially for those that are considered introverts. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll definitely come off better and become a networking guru. Before you know it you will have a network that spans across the globe.

1. Take a friend with you to a networking event. It can help ease the tension of meeting new people. You can also use this tactic to dived and conquered and exchange contacts as you meet them.

2. If you must go to a networking event and you are not sure if you will know anyone there, wear an interesting item like a pin or another article of clothing that stick out. It is a great way to lure people to you to spark up a conversation.

3. When you introduce yourself do not just right away reveal your title. You never know when things can change in your life, and you do not want people to remember you forever as “the medical student.” Instead take this opportunity to reveal something interesting you do- like run a blog or lead a nonprofit organization. Then casually introduce your title (work).

4. Use your business cards. Hand them out to people you made solid connections with after a conversation. Do not hand it out to every person you meet unless you are in the sales industry. It is never about quantity but quality. What is the point of having thousands of contacts if only 50 of them hold value to you?

5. Make sure to stay connected with people you meet, it can be as simple as sending them an interesting news article you found through an email or sending them birthday wishes.

6. When you get newly acquainted with someone, do not right away ask for favors. Many people are guilty of this. Instead take the opportunity to get to know who the person is. People do expect to give out favors as well as receive them eventually.

7. Do your research before you go to an industry event. Make sure to know what news is current in today’s world. You should be able to strike up a conversation with anyone if you stay current on news stories. If you are going to an industry event that is different from your background, do a little research to understand their lingo. Nothing is more impressive than a person outside my industry who is able to have a conversation about my background.

8. Watch the body language of the new people you interact with. Do not squeeze yourself into a conversation if the group looks closed off and tight knit. If the group is facing outwards this indicates they are open to inviting more people to speak to them.

9. At the end of a panel, do not be like the other hundreds of people waiting in line to speak to the panelist. Instead stand out by either approaching them before they speak or getting their card and reconnecting with them at a different time. The truth is unless you say something striking the panelist probably will not remember you from the other people they met before and after you.

10. Never shoot someone down because you think the person is not an asset to you now. You will be surprised how handy that person can be later down the line.

11. Lastly, branch out and meet all different types of people. Your network should have a mixture of different passions, values, and backgrounds. Sometimes your contact can help another person, which can in turn help you in the long run. A colorful network will open you to many opportunities and can build long lasting friends.

What techniques have you used for networking in the past? What worked? What did not work? Share your thoughts in the comment box below!

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