What’s your networking IQ?

High? Low? Middling? If your career is on a fast track and the contacts folder on your phone is packed with familiar names, then you, my friend, are a networking ninja! For the rest of us, there is room to grow. Love it or hate it, your career success is all about networking. That’s because over 60% of jobs are found through networking. With those kinds of numbers, it would be a mistake to stay behind your keyboard or phone. Online networking is certainly necessary in the 21st century, but it is insufficient.

When it comes to business networking, there are two kinds of people: those who love it and those who would rather poke themselves in the eye with a sharp stick than enter a roomful of strangers. Whichever side you come down on, the first question is not whether you are an introvert or an extravert. It’s not whether you can sell a snow cone to an Eskimo. The first question is: do you have a compelling narrative? Does it make your listener think, “Ooh! Tell me more!”? Check out the free download on this topic. Once you have that compelling personal commercial, there are four other skills you want to master.

The Fab Four of Networking

1. Be a magnet, not a windsock. Rather than sending out the “please hire me” or “please buy from me” vibe, shift your focus to drawing people toward you with welcoming eye contact, a smile and a verbal greeting, and then engage him or her in a dynamic conversation. A good rule of thumb is to listen 70% of the time and talk 30%.

2. Know your pitch. Your elevator speech is your ticket to a deeper, more productive conversation. Your delivery should take no longer than 30 seconds and should be positive and enticing. What makes you interesting? What are you passionate about? Practice often.

3. Come prepared. First, be smart and pick your events carefully. More is not better. Find out who’ll be in attendance, and then research that organization or executive. Be ready with one or two questions and perhaps a positive comment about what you find most interesting about their organization. In addition to business cards, a name tag, and appropriate attire, the right attitude is a must. Would you show up at the grocery store without your wallet? In addition to questions about the organization, it is also helpful to have a few conversation starters ready to go. Checking online news sources before you head out is great way to feel more prepared to make small talk. And remember – some topics are off limits, even in an election year! Stick with travel, sports, vacations, hobbies, and work.

4. Manage the clock. It’s not about how many people you meet; it’s about making meaningful connections and leaving a lasting impression. When people think you are barreling through the event trying to beat the networking record, you leave them with a sour aftertaste. That said, do try to limit each conversation to approximately seven minutes. That gives you enough time to interact without getting stuck. If you do get stuck in a conversation, excuse yourself to refresh your beverage and then do exactly that.

Want more tips and tricks? Check out our workshops and webinars page. We can come to you