If you haven't heard it yet, it's important that you know now: In the business world, it's all about who you know. Networking is one of the most important things you could do as a young entrepreneur. Meeting the right person can lead you to your next opportunity, so you must always be prepared to shake someone's hand and make him or her remember you. Networking isn't easy, but here are a few strategies to help you do so effectively.
1. Know who your best prospects are
If you're looking for a job in public relations, then it's okay to skip the service industry networking mixer. It's also important to meet people who can introduce you to other people in your industry. If you connect with someone's assistant, they could potentially connect you to that person directly.
2. Have an agenda
It's important to have an agenda before attending a networking event. Make a list of who you want to meet and why. Go over the topics of discussion you want to engage in and what facts about yourself are most important to a new connection. Some experts suggest setting a numerical goal of how many people you plan to connect with. If possible, try obtaining a list of attendees and doing research on them to help you prepare.
3. Bring a wingman
At your next networking event, bring a friend, co-worker, business associate or even a client along with you. Having this "security blanket" will boost your confidence as well as your comfort level. You'll be able to confidently interact with people as yourself, rather than this "business persona" many people have. That being said, it's important to remain professional, but don't be afraid to let your personality show.
4. Take notes
It can be hard to remember whom you meet and what company they're with, especially at bigger networking mixers. Unfortunately, not everyone is prepared with business cards so taking notes to remember this information is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
5. Follow up
Following up is key in networking. Doing so and maintaining the relationship is equally as important as making the connection in the first place. That could mean a periodic email, phone call, in-person casual chat or dropping an interesting article in the mail. The goal is to cement the relationship.
Networking is a two-way street. It's important to remember that you are creating a symbiotic relationship. If you are expecting this person to help you find a position now or later, you must be willing to do the same for them when possible.