Adding new tools to the toolbox doesn’t mean the old classics are useless; you will find that your hammer and screwdriver remain useful even if you buy a new drill or LED flashlight. Newer technology doesn’t always push aside the tried and true tools of the trade.
In the same way, new online networking methods are valuable, but don’t cancel out most of the traditional offline networking methods. In-person networking opportunities help develop opportunistic professional relationships. Being physically present in your event attendance, and social networking has not gone out of style. Often, online and offline networking tactics should be combined for the best levels of professional success.
Becoming Tech Savvy
Social media plays a huge part in today’s business world. The Pew Research Internet Project has announced that over 73 percent of online adults participate in some kind of social networking platform. Some of the most popular platforms include Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram, but Facebook remains the most popular, with more than three times the number of adults than the next most popular networking site (LinkedIn). Professionals who wish to connect with other professionals should take an opportunity to build an online profile to showcase their talents and skills.
With a social media presence, professionals can re-post content of their own or content from other sources to inspire fellow professionals. Social media provides exposure to other companies and peers, provided you are diligent in posting valuable content regularly. This will require understanding the various social media platforms, choosing the one that supports fellow professionals in your field and using the platform-specific etiquette practices.
Attending In-Person Events
Virtual presence is important, but it isn’t everything. When professionals gather for like-minded reasons, such as conventions, trade shows, and seminars, they are able to connect through related professional interests. While virtual presence can often be ignored among the chaos of the busy online world, in-person events provide a much more intimate level of professional connection.
Professionals who attend physical events with their peers need a convenient and memorable way to enable reconnection at a later date. Business cards are a time-tested method of leaving contact information with peers and business leaders. Networking with a business card is a smooth way to show your professional resourcefulness and ingenuity. Business cards should offer several ways other professionals can contact you, including social media plugs, your professional blog (if you have one), a professional email address, and your phone number.
Body Language vs. Text
There are pros and cons to any form of interaction. If you are used to interacting in-person, then you know that body language and vocal tone will tell you a lot about a person and how they are taking in the conversation. Online, you are left without any contextual sense of how something is being said. Is the other person sarcastic? Perhaps the tone is irritated or humored, but you would never know staring at the black Times New Roman letters formed into virtual correspondence.
At the same time, digital interaction allows you to prepare and clean up your act. No in-person awkwardness as you search for small talk subjects. With emails, marketing copy or social media posts, you can be as creative and catchy as you want – having weeks (or months) to brainstorm, edit and proofread before you hit “publish.”
Creating the Business Card that Works
It is this mesh of digital and in-person interaction that makes the business card still that necessary tool in the box. Networking with a business card is the professional’s opportunity to be snazzy, sleek and impressive with the marketing piece he put thought into ahead of time. While interacting with people on a face-to-face basis, you can whip out a business card and give your small talk a backbone.
The first tip for creating a professional calling card is understanding your audience. A corporate professional typically appreciates luxe papers and traditional colors. The fancy elements shouldn’t come from an elaborate design, but a simplified layout, classic fonts, and subtle extravagance. Consider printing your cards on ultra-thick paper stock or using raised printing techniques. Allow your business card to represent who you are as a professional, without being boring or tacky. Unless you are in a creative industry, you probably won’t want your business card to be too over the top.
Set Measurable Networking Goals
You need to be organized in your approach to connecting with other professionals. It’s always a good idea to do your research and brainstorm relevant topics ahead of time if you are attending in-person events. Establish guidelines to help you stay on target in scheduling and preparing for professional social outings.
Not only should you schedule in-person events with others in your perspective field, but you should be establishing personal goals for your social media activity. Your goal might be pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in some way or the number of attempts to connect in a given week. You might form and send a relationship-building email to a peer you met at a recent convention or gala. Give yourself deadlines and specific numbers to help determine your level of success within a given period.
Develop your 60-second presentation on your professional value. As you meet new business connections, you will want to explain how your business and professional position can help them. Let them know what they can get out of forming a relationship with you. Then, practice your good listening skills and ask relevant questions to keep the conversation going. You can pick up leads and cues for your own business by listening to your professional peers. Know when to end the conversation, and leave them wanting more and not less of you.
Your networking abilities will help you expand your professional reach. Continue to form the relationships that will improve your business capabilities. Look for ways to be invaluable to others and ways you can use their value to boost your own professional interests. And, always look for more reliable tools to add to your professional toolbox.
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