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“It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Here’s a lesson that has been ingrained in our minds, yet most of us still face difficulty in expanding our network to grow our career. Actively networking is one of the best things you could do for yourself, whether you are a new graduate ready to step into the ‘real world’, a young professional satisfied in their current job, or an established professional seeking a career change.
Making your presence known in the professional community and building connections is essential to long-term success and career growth. These professional relationships can be mutually beneficial, opening doors to career opportunities, the exchange of ideas and gain of newfound knowledge.
For most of us, flawless networking does not occur right away; it requires practice and preparation. There are 5 essential tips to remember – a list that is by no means the be all and the end all of networking, but rather a “starting kit” that will equip you with basic knowledge:
1. Networking is not limited to a specific time or place
A common rookie mistake is assuming that networking is limited to a specific location or time. Any place at any time can be an opportunity to network – building professional connections is never restricted to conferences or professional events. The woman making casual conversation as you both wait on your Starbucks order could potentially be a recruiter. The man sitting at the table next to you at your cousin’s wedding could have a connection to your dream job. Being prepared to represent yourself, career, or organization anywhere at any given time will allow you to maximize opportunities to develop relationships that will further your career. Keeping that in mind, it is always a good idea to keep a few business cards handy to easily exchange contact information and facilitate easy follow-up.
2. Perfect the elevator pitch
Since networking can occur at any given point (even in a 30-second elevator ride) the words you choose to represent yourself need to be concise and to the point. Write and rewrite your pitch until you have a perfect statement of who you are and what you do. It is important to tailor your message to the person listening to you – your pitch to a recruiter at a job fair may differ from your speech to a guest at a cocktail event. Keep it simple enough for you to remember, specifying a handful of key points. This allows the audience to push for details and stretch the conversation, if opportunity allows. Most importantly, make it compelling; use a memorable line or two, or even an anecdote that will leave your presence remembered.
3. Keep in contact
Following up after a meeting is crucial, especially when it is so easy to be forgotten in a fast-moving day and age. It is therefore important to exchange contact information when you have the chance, and connect via e-mail or LinkedIn within a week. Keep in touch beyond social media and emails – if there is someone you want to gain career insights from or a co-worker you’d like to catch up with, schedule a
coffee date. Stimulating conversations can flourish over a hot cup of coffee! The best networker not only uses the most of his or her opportunities, but also actively works to create more occasions.
4. Dress to impress
As cliché as it sounds, you have to dress to impress. First impressions always have, and always will, count. Whether it is a face-to-face meeting at a networking event or your LinkedIn photo, always consider how you want to portray yourself. When being approached by or approaching potential professional relations, your attire) will say a lot about you – it is the packaging to the product (which is you). That being said, completely losing yourself in producing a certain image is not encouraged. Ensure that you feel comfortable and confident, so that conversations can be facilitated with ease rather than anxiety.
5. Be passionate!
Finally, networking will altogether fail without passion. Demonstrate honest excitement for what you do. If you are not truly inspired about your job or company, focus on showing your inner drive to succeed, or passion for your industry. Expressing enthusiasm will make the conversation much more engaging, and strengthen your ability to build meaningful connections.
Use every opportunity that you can to expand your network. Take full advantage of technological allies such as LinkedIn or face-to-face events such as CTPA’s Toast to Success; you will add value to yourself as a professional and practice soon reap the rewards of a successful career.
“Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.”
– Christine Comaford-Lynch
Contributed by Gary Anandasangaree
Gary is the Principal lawyer at Gary Anandasangaree & Associates (GA Law). He has experience in all practice areas of the firm and has appeared before the Superior Court of Justice for both criminal and civil matters. Using his extensive experience in business and real estate, Gary is actively involved with commercial and real estate transactions from the initial stages of the deal to the final closing.
For more information on GA Law, visit www.galaw.ca