For decades, networking has been used to create long-term relationships, recruit talent, advance careers, and find new opportunities. Networking requires a strong communication skill set and is rarely easy for beginners. For some, networking may be downright terrifying.
But the pros know how to do it well and set themselves apart. A networking pro is difficult to define, but you know when you see one. Whether it’s their effortless charm, quick wit, or massive social media following of highly engaged professionals, the pros tend to make networking look easy.
Here are their secrets:
1. They use social media to their advantage.
In-person networking has existed for decades, and the benefits are undisputed. It’s a chance to be identified and recognized, meet other professionals in your field, sow the seeds for long-term relationships, share your knowledge, and more. It’s a win-win for everyone. But the pros also network online, using social media to their advantage. Ultimately, social media networks like LinkedIn act as another touchpoint for developing relationships and connections over time.
But social media isn’t just for connecting and socializing – it’s a prime opportunity to share what you know, your ideas, and how you can help people. The most effective social media users are able to amplify themselves and spread their ideas to thousands and even millions of people.
Especially in today’s business environment of hybrid and remote work, you have to be able to connect with people online too – and the pros do this well.
2. They network outside the box.
Brand name networking events and conferences are available in major cities around the world – and they’re often very similar. Similar speakers, similar venues, and similar attendees. These events aren’t hard to find, and they can be great networking opportunities, especially if you’re new in the game.
But the pros are always looking for more. They don’t want to repeat themselves in front of the same people, in the same venues. They want to get their name out and spread their message wherever they can. They look for fringier events at places that won’t attract the same crowds.
3. They’re unforgettable.
First impressions are powerful and have the ability to make or break opportunities. The pros know how to make a great first impression every time by communicating well, being authentic, and using positive body language.
But a first impression often isn’t enough – especially if you’re encountering hundreds of people over a two-day event. The pros know how to make themselves unforgettable. Whether it’s something they say or some unique offer they present, they make sure to stand out from the crowd.
4. They stay in touch.
It’s important to remember that networking doesn’t end when the venue closes its doors and the parking lots are cleared. Following up with the people you’ve met is the next step in developing long-term relationships.
The pros know how to do this well. They may follow up with a personal tidbit, indicating they remembered and valued the conversation. Or they may follow up with an offer for lunch or coffee. They will also follow up online by connecting on social media or engaging with your posts.
In the end, the pros are able to stay top of mind and continue developing their relationships over time.
5. They really listen.
Although easier said than done, genuinely listening to people is a key networking skill. Too often, people are so focused on their own words that they’re unable to remember or understand what people are telling them in-the-moment.
The pros don’t fixate on talking, and instead, let other people talk. That way, they’re able to learn more about the person they’re meeting, and have more to follow up on after. Listening is also a great way to make people feel heard – and they’ll remember you for how you make them feel.
6. They network on off-days.
For the pros, networking isn’t something they simply attend or do on certain days. It’s an approach they use in everyday life. Whether it’s with a gas station attendant, a financial advisor, or a real estate agent, they bring the same networking fundamentals to every interaction. The pros are focused on making a good impression and listening to people everywhere they go.
Naturally, more extroverted people will have an easier time with networking, while more introverted people may become too anxious and hyper-aware to leave a good impression. Like most things, anyone can get better with practice. The key is being willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations so those situations become easier over time.
Whether you’re looking to create long-term relationships, find new opportunities, recruit talent, or advance your career, these networking secrets are for you.
By implementing these networking secrets, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a networking pro yourself. As you improve your networking skills, you’ll become better at presenting yourself, listening, sharing what you know, and leaving an unforgettable impression on people.