With the end of tax season just around the corner, it’s time to think about getting back out there and growing your practice! When it comes to advancing your career and making work enjoyable in general, developing meaningful business relationships is important. Networking is one of the best ways to meet contacts, generate referrals and build rapport with them. From daily encounters in your office to new experiences at conferences, there’s an opportunity to connect with someone every day.
Networking is about relationships. Having friends at work keeps it fun and can lead to opportunities for professional growth. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. But it’s not always easy to form friendships as adults; in fact, it’s often uncomfortable and downright hard. The good news is other people have the same goals as you. All it takes is a simple greeting or a kind act. If you step outside your comfort zone to advance your professional network and follow through on well-laid plans to do so, you won’t be disappointed. Here are some things to keep in mind as you set out on this journey:
- Be strategic. With networking, the quality’s more important than quantity. Good networking happens over time, so choose to connect with people who are valuable to your career. Finding a way to help them is a great icebreaker.
- Take advantage of opportunities to practice. Networking’s a skill, and sometimes an acquired skill. Seeking out chances to practice will help you be on your “A game” when it matters most.
- Update your resume and online profiles. If you strike gold and someone takes an interest in you, they may ask for your resume or look you up online. Making sure your resume and online presences are current will prevent connections from going off of old information.
- Be respectful of their time and stick to any time constraints. When you meet with someone, have a few talking points prepared. By keeping the conversation focused, you’ll come off as professional. If time’s running short, take cues from the other person on whether you should pick up the conversation later.
- Talk about more than work. Bringing up your interests outside of work is a great way to discover common interests with your contacts and develop deeper connections with them.
- Ask about the other person’s experiences and let them talk. The keys here are fighting the urge to chime in and responding with questions. Prompting the other person to talk about himself or herself will make them feel good and help you continue the conversation.
- Say thank you and find a reason to follow up. Within a couple of days of meeting someone new, send them a LinkedIn invitation to connect or an article that’s related to what you two discussed. If you have a great connection, touch base with them two or three times a year.
- Request a favor from them. Asking someone to do you a favor makes them think you trust them and automatically makes them like you. Don’t force it, but reach out to them if the favor’s reasonable and relevant.
A couple of ideas specific to conferences are:
- Go to the bar to relax. Even if you’re not drinking, it’s worth it to spend a little time at the bar. It’s a common place for people to gather, and you never know who you might see (or meet).
- Meet with people between sessions or at dinner. If you have a strict itinerary for the sessions you’ll be attending, figure out when you’ll have time to network. Invite other conference-goers out to lunch or dinner. You’ll leave a great impression by picking up the tab.