You’re a young business professional (or older) and you’re ready to take on the world. You’ve just started your own business, or you’re new in town and you’re ready to meet more professionals like yourself. You know you need connections. You know you need to network!
But, before you start introducing yourself to new people, here are some great networking tips that will help you look professional and leave a great first impression.
Create/Update Your Profile on LinkedIn
You should establish a great online presence before you start networking with others. And if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you should make one today. LinkedIn allows for other professionals to see what you’re all about: your education, your past experience, your professional network… etc. Also, business professionals might be inclined to google you after you’ve made a great impression, much like a potential employer would. Personally, I google people all the time. I even google myself.
The real question is: would you want a professional connection to see your LinkedIn profile first… or, your Facebook profile? I bet your answer is probably the former.
You can also find groups to connect with on LinkedIn. Before I graduated college, I found a local young professional network set up by alumni via LinkedIn. They updated their group daily. People posted questions about resumes and informational interviews. On top of that, they met Thursday mornings for coffee at different locations. I never went to these meetings, but if you’re looking for a great place to find a networking opportunity, LinkedIn might be your main social media networking hub.
Join an Organization
Need to find more networking opportunities? A great way to do that is by joining a local organization! There are a variety of organizations in Northfield for professionals and businesses, like Northfield Chamber of Commerce and their Northfield Young Professionals group.
You may also want to check out the newspaper or Patch.com for any new/potential networking events. We host events at SPUR Northfield almost all the time! Check out our events calendar for more opportunities coming up: http://spurnorthfield.com/calendar/
Have An Elevator Pitch Ready
An elevator pitch is a 30-second speech that introduces yourself. It should describe your field and your current position. If you don’t have a current position, it should describe your target position, a job you want. Every elevator pitch should be short and sweet, a general introduction. Once you have one in mind, write it down and practice it. It’s a great way to start conversation with someone you’re meeting for the first time.
For more on creating the perfect elevator speech, visit our other blog post: http://spurnorthfield.com/5-steps-to-creating-a-great-elevator-pitch/
Have Business Cards Ready
It never hurts to have a couple of business cards with you wherever you go. There have been too many times I’ve had a chance encounter with another professional in my industry, and I never gave them my business card, mainly because I never bothered to carry any with me. Big bummer. Having a business card on your person really helps, especially when you want to establish a connection or continue a conversation. Shuffling in your purse or pocket for a pen to write down information on a napkin… doesn’t look good. Business cards are an essential part of networking.
Don’t Speak Poorly of Others
Remember the old adage: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all? If you have something bad to say about another business or person within your industry, DON’T start by telling Joe, whom you’ve just met. Speaking negatively about others leaves a bad impression, a very bad impression. When a person starts badmouthing somebody at a networking event, I immediately feel uncomfortable. I want to leave the conversation. Please don’t make it awkward for others by delivering a slew negative statements right off the bat. Also, you can never know who they know. You could be talking about one of their close colleagues, or a highly esteemed mentor! Whoops.
If someone starts speaking ill of others to you, don’t participate or agree. You have no idea who they’ll speak with next about their personal issue. If you verbally agree with their complaints or negative comments, they may be inclined to say to another professional, “Well, so-and-so agrees with me!” Now you’re in a bad place. So, how do you leave the conversation without offending this person? Sympathize with them. Say you’re sorry they had a poor experience or bad first impression. Then, do your best to politely move on.
Blog post written by Michaela Morgan, SPUR Northfield Project Coordinator.