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Professional Networking: How to network like a pro

professional networking

You arrive at a networking event and grab a drink from the nearest waiter. Your heart is pounding as you try locking your eyes with someone, anyone, who may be your temporary shelter in this sea of strangers.

Whether you're an introvert or extrovert, networking events can seem daunting especially when you arrive alone and everyone already seems to be engaged in group conversations.

So, as a jobseeker, why should you put yourself through these sorts of events?

Professionals attend corporate networking events in order to meet extended groups of people and build relationships beneficial to all parties. Networking allows you to get your face out there (pretty much like walking advertising) and meet people who could be potential employers. If you’re an employer, it could put you in front of attractive talent or potential investors or clients. The more people you leave a positive impression on, the wider your professional network and the more the opportunities you open yourself up to.

Here are the basics you need to network like a pro:

A firm grip
You can look the part, dress the part, and talk the talk, but your handshake could be letting you down. Yes, really.

A soft, quick-release handshake screams insincerity, apathy and weakness. A handshake that crushes the other person’s hand implies arrogance and can make people fearful of you. A firm handshake should be accompanied by a steady gaze, a smile, and just the right amount of pressure.

Be genuine
It’s hard meeting new people; it’s even harder when you’re having to feign interest or brag about yourself in the hopes of getting noticed. Being genuine is about being open, honest and having an actual good time. Find people with whom you genuinely enjoy the conversation, mean it when you praise someone else’s business proposition, be polite, and share truthful details about yourself and your business or work history. People can often tell when you’re not being genuine, and it doesn’t leave a good impression. You should be you – not the person you think others want to meet.

Be helpful
Treat the strangers that you meet as your friends. Be the middleman and link your networks together. If you know two people who can benefit from knowing one another, why not introduce them? It doesn’t take much effort to share your contacts and expertise. This will make you known as a powerful resource for others. Offering help to someone within the network may increase their motivation of returning the favour, but lower your expectations for him or her to reciprocate.

Ask for advice
In other words, be humble. You’re there to share your ideas and expertise but at the same time, learn from others. They may be good at something you have little experience in and need help with. Listening to others helps you learn from their challenges and getting to know them better leads to a more productive and fruitful relationship. People appreciate it when you share your stories and your passion. But they are more grateful when you’re honestly interested in what they have to say.

Be visible
After the networking event, send follow-up emails to your new friends. This ensures they remember who you are once the memories of the event fades. Maintain a relationship by connecting with them on social media so that they are aware when you launch a new service, or open a flagship store in town. Of course, that doesn’t mean you add them on all available social media platforms (some cherish their privacy).

Corporate networking is not about widening your network; it’s about diversifying it. Networking within your industry or social group does not add as much value as compared to networking outside of it.

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