You’ve been networking since you were born. You made connections that were resourceful: Mom was great for times when you were hungry, dad made playtime fun, and grandma was more about slobbery kisses. So, you’ve got this, right?
Professional networking is different, but retains many of the same features. You need to make connections with people who can be good resources for your career. You also need to make connections with other like-minded people who can support and validate your career efforts, and maybe steer you in the right direction.
Before going to any industry event, find out who else is going to be there. That way, you can target those people you know you want to meet. Say, for example, you want to meet the general manager of a specific hotel in town. That person is not attending, but the senior sales manager for the hotel is. Find them at the event and go introduce yourself, saying you admire their hotel and are envious they get to work with the GM. A conversation ensues, and before you know it, you’ve been invited to tour the hotel and meet your dream manager.
But wait, there’s more. Don’t forget to chat up other people at the event, even if they aren’t on your target list. You never know—emphasis on never—who in that room will have exactly the product, service or connection you will need in the near future that you don’t realize in the present. As soon as you return to your office, be sure to connect with them via LinkedIn or a personal email to thank them for their time at the event. If you use a client resource management (CRM) tool, add them to your database for future reference. Their business card, with a life expectancy of one to two years, can then be tossed.
I’ve been in the industry for more than two decades and have met a number of people who offer team-building services. But, there are two I have worked with on association programs or just gotten to know personally, nothing professional. Just this spring, I had a client who needed a team-building activity for a fall program. Guess who I called for proposals?
In addition to adding your connections to the social medium you prefer, check in with them from time to time. Congratulate them on their new job. Say “happy birthday” or just “hello” when you can. People love to be remembered and recognized, and they will show it by helping you the next time you ask.
Tracey B. Smith, CMP, CMM, plans meetings, conferences and special events from Central Texas. She is a Global Emerging Leaders Community (GEL) contributor.