If that’s not enough to push your networking efforts into high gear, I don’t know what will.
Networking isn’t a skill that comes naturally to everyone. Most people have to learn how. Making connections with other people can be especially difficult if you are shy, introverted, young, or lacking social skills.
Whatever your business experience or social comfort level, it’s not difficult to improve your networking skills. You don’t need a teacher or a seminar, just some new habits.
Here’s a list of 50 habits to master. Learn these and you’ll be on your way to building a the kind of network that advances your career.
1. Set a goal to make two new connections a week. Or three. Or five.
2. Join professional or trade organizations to locate others in your field. These can be local clubs, alumnae associations, trade groups, or online forums and discussion groups, for example.
3. Have plenty of up-to-date, professional business cards. Include all your contact information.
4. Learn how to use and track social media so you are easily available to people in your field.
5. Squelch your lack of confidence by reminding yourself that people don’t expect you to be a rock star. We’re all ordinary and we all share some common interests.
6. Remember that people like to help others. Don’t think of yourself as an annoyance. Think of yourself as someone giving another person a chance to feel good about himself.
7. Develop your elevator pitch. Have a very brief one-sentence pitch, as well as a more detailed 15-second version, and an even more complete one-minute pitch.
8. Find a source for current events that you can read, watch, or listen to daily. This habit will keep you in the loop so you can always join in or start a conversation. There’s always the weather as a topic.
What Not to Do
9. Don’t regard networking as an opportunity to boast or promote yourself. View it as an exchange of information and as just plain being friendly.
10. When conversing with anyone, devote more time to listening than to talking.
11. When making a new connection, don’t voice strong opinions until you know more about the person.
12. Don’t rush into promoting yourself immediately. Don’t look greedy or needy.
13. If you presently have a job, don’t limit your networking to people in your own company, even though that is a good place to start. Don’t start building your network within your company too quickly, since that could signal your intentions to move on.
14. Don’t be phony or patronizing. People can see through that. Be genuine.
15. Don’t gossip or criticize. Treat all your contacts like good friends whom you respect.
At Networking Events
16. Smile. But not immediately or constantly. Wait a second after making eye contact to smile. This pause telegraphs that the smile is genuine and personalized.
17. Dress to impress. Good grooming and an appropriate, flattering wardrobe choice go a long way.
18. Be first to introduce yourself. Pretend you are the host at a party.
19. People are there to network, so there’s no pretending. It’s like speed dating. Only slower. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Asking good questions demonstrates confidence, listening skills and a willingness to learn.
20. Act interested. Don’t complain about how you hate these events.
21. Don’t slight anyone. The dumbest-looking or most awkward person in the room deserves as much attention as the others. Move around.
22. Compliment people, but be real about it. Find a way to make each person you meet feel special.
23. Be a reflective listener. Nod, change your facial expressions, and make affirmative sounds to let the speaker know you are interested. Imitate the body language of the person talking to you.
24. Make notes after the session, including notes on the back of business cards to help you remember who’s who. Keep this background info organized and current.
25. Attend events and online forums not necessarily aligned with your career. Include people you meet through a hobby or a sport you play, for example, as part of your network.
26. Look for social events that are open to the public – gallery openings, open houses, new business grand openings, fundraisers, or political receptions. You’ll mix casually with new people in a relaxed setting.
27. Even vacations present opportunities to expand your network. The woman you sit next to on a flight, or the man you chat with at a cruise ship mixer might be your next boss.
28. Be on the alert for meet-and-greets and job fairs sponsored by different groups like schools and professional associations.
29. An older person can be an excellent springboard to important and influential people who can help you. Don’t assume that because a retiree isn’t active on social media he can’t be a valuable connection.
Skills to Practice
30. Practice body language at home. Find postures that make you feel strong but approachable.
31. Learn to ask open-ended questions in conversations, questions that could never be answered with a simple yes or no.
32. Memorize a list of questions that encourage people to talk about themselves. Ask, “What do you like best about your job?”
33. Get comfortable meeting new people. Practice small talking with salespeople, bystanders, and others you think you’ll never see again.
34. Use memorization aids. When introduced to someone, use his name immediately in conversation. It will help you remember it.
35. Practice your handshake. It should be firm and brief.
36. Become a good listener. Maintain eye contact and give your full attention to the speaker.
37. Get rid of nervous habits like fidgeting, chewing gum, tapping a pencil, looking at your watch or phone, touching your face, frowning, or defensive body language.
38. Learn how to exit a conversation or group. Have something to say to excuse yourself, shake hands, smile, and move on.
Social Media Pointers
39. Be consistent in your online presence. Use the same photo, name and other details across the web.
40. Decide which social media outlets work best to connect you to your kind of people.
41. Get good at one social media then move on to learn another. Use only the ones that are worth your time.
42. Locate old friends, associates and neighbors you’ve lost touch with. Use online searches to rekindle friendships. Google and Facebook make it easy.
43. LinkedIn and Twitter are good places to ask questions of followers. Ask questions like, “What helped you most in your career?”
Nurture Your Connections
44. Send notes or cards to thank or congratulate people. Everyone likes real mail.
45. Call to suggest getting together. Make it drinks, coffee, lunch, or even a walk and talk.
46. Invite one or more of your contacts to an event you’re attending that would interest them. You could get tickets to a game, concert, or lecture, for example.
47. Forward a link or hard copy article to people in your network who would find it helpful, entertaining or interesting.
48. Return favors by supporting them on social media sites. Give their comments and websites a thumbs-up on Facebook. Add to their Google+ postings. Retweet their best tweets. Endorse and recommend them on LinkedIn.
49. Focus on helping others get what they want, not on getting what you want.
50. Make it graceful, not awkward or embarrassing, for your connections to initiate and continue conversations.
Put these 50 reminders into use and you’ll soon be an accomplished networker with a better job as a result.