I have included some personal tips below that have worked well for me and grown my networks (and by no means to I consider myself to be a pro at this – yet!) I have also included information from self proclaimed pro's (who I haven't met, but it sounds like they know what they're talking about).
1. Build your contact list
- Get out to events, talk to people, get out of your comfort zone, people are just people and they like to talk about themselves so ask them questions about how they have landed where they are.
- Make sure you get a business card. If it feels awkward asking, provide them with yours first (surely they will reciprocate)
- It's not necessarily about having hundreds or thousands of contacts – it's about having real ones, people that would help you, introduce you, vouch for you
- Be REAL!
- You can't just stop at the networking event!
- When you get back to the office (or at the end of the week) – add their contact details into your email address book
- Add them on Linkedin with a note “Nice to meet you at today's (insert here) event, let's keep in touch”
- If you are on Twitter, start following them to continue the conversation virtually
- Keep in touch – ask them for coffee or lunch if there is a real connection
3. Help! (probably the MOST important)
- Be a connector – once you get to know a contact, introduce them to others (find needs and fill them)
- Does your new contact need help with their networking group, a personal passion, some volunteer work – how can you help that person?
- On a side note – volunteering is a GREAT way to build your networks outside of your paid job
- Check out a quick video on the importance of this by Seth Godin
4. Send Thank You's
- If you ask someone for coffee or lunch because you want to get to know that person, they have something you want, they may be a potential mentor – remember to thank them for their time
- Send a thank you note via email or in a card (I often bring a little Mink Chocolate bar as a thank you)
Don't be too pushy. Be gracious. Don't expect anything. Don't be superficial.