Unless you’ve come up with a revolutionary idea that’ll be necessary to a huge portion of the population, networking is a must in any job. Here’s what you need to know to network like a pro.
1. Practice Every Chance You Get
Just like tying your shoelaces took some getting used to, so does networking. Start small so you can master the fundamentals first before working onto big-time situations, and use everyone in your current network—friends, family, neighbors. All it takes is a simple hi to get the ball rolling, just so you’re fresh in their memory.
2. Prepare an Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is so called because it refers to the amount of time you have to pitch your idea in an elevator ride. Whittle yourself down to a 30-second time block, highlighting all the important areas, and you’ve got a sharp description of yourself people will remember.
3. Build a Reputation
No matter what you do—even if you’re not very visible—you have a reputation to others, so work on making it one that stands out from the crowd…in a good way. Be consistent with your words and actions, be honest, practice integrity and trust, and keep your personal life details to a minimum.
If you want to be in the Top 5 of other peoples’ email and phone lists, you have to do the same for them. It’s not enough to expect all the communication to come to you, as you also have to initiate contact. If this sounds hard, mentally prepare a 5-minute conversation about a business idea, or email a contact asking for their thoughts on an industry development.
5. Master Small Talk
The Queen of England is super at this. She meets thousands of people each year and won’t remember them all, but in the short conversation she has with them, each of them feels special and alone with her attention. Ask your contacts questions, like how they ended up in their career, what’s been the best experience they’ve had in their current job, and any advice they would have to give.
6. Be Selective
It’s no use trying to build a network of contacts in every single area of your life, so examine which ones will be the most useful to you. Narrow down your search based on relevant criteria, like geography, political or academic grouping, social demographic, or industry-specific.
This may sound contradictory to the previous point, but it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and make contacts with people who, on the surface, may not seem like a good fit. Building a solid network is more than just who can help you out right now; it’s about thinking long-term, compound interests (i.e. making contacts with contacts with contacts).