Social media has revolutionized networking for anyone who is more comfortable in front of a computer screen than schmoozing at a cocktail party.
However, for the socially timid, the bad news is that good old fashioned handshakes and eye contact are still crucial elements of networking.
"The good news is that networking skills can be cultivated with a little bit of practice. Even if you’re already pretty good at making small talk, there’s always room for improvement," said Eric Soni, recruitment specialist at Robert Walters.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when networking:
1. Smile and shake hands. Simple physical gestures like these make you seem more approachable.
2. Put the smartphone down. It can be tempting to take refuge in a corner with your device when you’re stranded at a networking event all by your lonesome. However focusing all your attention on your phone is a sure signal that you’re not interested in socializing.
3. Have business cards on-hand at all times. Not just at networking events but even when you run out for coffee or to grab lunch. You never know who you’ll run into, and you don’t want to miss an opportunity to make a connection. Act confident, even if you’re not.
The best networking opportunities are also opportunities to learn something new about your area of expertise.
4. Learn to listen. If you’re an introvert, take a tip from Ivan Misner, founder of the professional business networking organization BNI: capitalize on your natural instinct to be a good listener. Ask a lot of questions and engage your conversational partner. Ironically, being interested often makes you seem more interesting.
5. Be equal opportunity. It’s always exciting to shake hands with the CEO of your dream company, but it can be just as beneficial to spend some time chatting with his admin or the person who works the front desk at his firm.
6. Ask insightful questions. Show that you have a sharp, inquisitive mind. Think of new ways to phrase inquiries. Instead of “What do you do?,” ask “What do you love most about your role?”
7. Follow up with people you’ve met in person by sending them a LinkedIn connection request and reaching out on Twitter to say a public hello.
8. Always keep it positive. Even if you’re not crazy about the venue, or BART made your commute difficult, these aren’t good conversation starters. Keeping things on a positive note shows that you have a good attitude and are willing to see the upside of any scenario - valuable qualities for companies looking for employees to help them troubleshoot product problems and handle customers with aplomb.
9. Make yourself valuable. The best way to get people to remember you? Plant a seed in their mind about how you can help them. As you’re talking, notice opportunities to insert your particular skills and know-how.
Want to find out what you're worth? Download the Robert Walters Salary Checker app for Apple or Android devices.