by Fred Khachi, JK Consultants
Professional networking events such as social gatherings, breakfasts and cocktail parties are now valuable marketing and intelligence gathering tools. Most people attend to gather leads and create contacts with people from other companies and industries. In addition, professionals gather to share insights and expertise from professionals outside of their immediate network. Ideas and expertise from other professionals can be translated to different industries and applied to improve results. Sharing information with other professionals can give valuable insight into trends occurring in the marketplace.
Today, professional networking is different from the past when most people networked because they needed a job or wanted to learn how their job or compensation compared to their competitors. Today, professional networking can be one of the most important things you can do in any profession because it allows you to build ongoing relationships with other professionals.
Now it is not even necessary to travel to a professional networking event since many people are part of the growing virtual networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. These networks have proven to be extremely valuable.
Professional networking is particularly important for smaller companies who tend to rely on their own experience and to solve problems with their own abilities and resources. These firms will benefit from getting other perspectives.
There are some important ground rules when participating in a professional network that will help you to get the most out of your time invested:
1. It is important that you have something of value that is relevant to your field or business that will generate interest. Be well informed and keep current on developments in your field. The key is to be well informed and knowledgeable. In other words, become an expert so that other professionals will want to have you in their professional network.
2. Identify relevant people with whom to network. You can find relevant people by being alert in conversations, ask and look through newspapers. Once you identify a key person, send them a brief letter of introduction and invite them to a professional networking event with you. You can even request that they meet with you and then ask that they become your mentor or coach.
3. Work on your introduction so that you can be concise and interesting when telling people who you are and what you do. Leave people wanting to hear more rather than boring them with long-winded explanations.
4. Remember to listen to what other’s have to say and engage in constructive dialogs. Do not waste other people’s time.
5. It is more important to have quality conversations with one relevant person rather than try to pass out your business card to everyone. If you did not make a lasting impression, most likely your business card will end up in the trash anyway.
6. Network inside as well as outside of your organization. There may be valuable contacts inside your own organization that you have overlooked.
7. Find a mentor and coach to help you in your networking and in your career progression.
8. Brag about your accomplishments. Many people feel awkward bragging about themselves but this is the only way that other professionals will learn about your accomplishments.
9. Join online networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Take advantage of the available technology and contacts. After all, you do not even have to travel to an organized event to network online.
10. Develop a good career plan. Rather than looking for a job at a professional network event, work with other professionals on your career progression or plan.
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JK Consultants brings outstanding leadership talent to organizations to help them strengthen their management teams and to realize increased long-term profitability and growth.