Strategic networking can be quite time consuming and requires commitment to attend various gatherings. Often, this marketing activity isn’t even at the top of women professionals’ to-do lists. With a crowded set of appointments on the calendar, adding a networking event at the end of a grueling day with strangers somehow loses its appeal.
Yet, strategic networking can be a girl’s best friend to boost a career. When it’s done well, strategic networking will give you a competitive edge throughout your career. Here’s what you can do to improve your networking skills and create a strong pool of professional connections that prove to be valuable assets at every stage.
Strategic Networking by the Numbers
1. Do Your Research
There are many types of networking groups from which to choose. Consider the types of connections that could provide referrals for business opportunities, provide advice for future career moves, or provide you with the opportunities to meet movers and shakers.
With a limited amount of time available for networking, you need to be strategic and make the networking efforts pay off. Choose wisely.
2. Have an Agenda
Know why you’re attending the event. Before arriving at the event, identify who will be attending and with whom you may want to talk. This should not be a time to collect a ton of business cards — three to five strategic connections would be more useful.
Before arriving, identify three topics about which you want to start conversations. Having thought about conversation topics before arriving allows you to more easily start a dialogue with a new connection.
3. Expand Beyond Your Comfort Zone
It may feel more comfortable talking with people you already know at networking events, especially if you’re somewhat of an introvert. However, strategic networking requires you to move beyond your comfort zone and reach out to others whom you do not know.
If you have done your homework and have an agenda that identifies who you want to meet, why you want to meet them, and how to start a conversation, then taking a step beyond comfort will not seem so difficult.
4. Be an Advocate for Others’ Success
One of the best ways to start conversations with perfect strangers is to ask them about their work and look for ways you can be of assistance to them.
You might be able to connect them with other professionals who can help their business or become a client of theirs. You may have resources to share. Being an advocate for others’ success creates a win-win situation.
5. Set a Networking Goal
When using strategic networking as a marketing tool, consider how it fits with your overall marketing plan. How much time do you have to devote to networking? How many networking events are beneficial for you to add to your calendar per month? How many people do you want to meet?
The most important decision to make is knowing how the networking contributes to your business growth and your career development.
Strategic networking is a marketing activity that women professionals do not use to their advantage as much as they could. Building a network of support for you and your career is often overlooked. Especially, women helping women and acting as advisors for the next generation is very important.
It often takes discipline to attend another cocktail party with strangers, but if you do your homework, the payoff is great.