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        Empowerment Series: Networking

        3/8/2016
        Contributed by Business Professionals of America

        Empowerment Series: Networking

        Hello BPA and welcome to the fifth installment of the Empowerment Series, Networking! Merriam Webster defines networking to be “the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”. Simply put, networking is establishing connections that can help you in your future. Many people do not realize that each person they meet is a potential connection that could help advance their career, but these connections are made daily! Who knows, one of these connections could even land you your dream job!

        Dress for the Occasion

        When you attend a networking event, always dress for the occasion. Business professionals should dress for success! By doing so, it will make an enormous difference! Before meeting you, people will form an initial opinion. If this person has no prior knowledge of you, it will be solely based on what you are wearing. By dressing for the occasion, one’s judgement of you will start off on the right foot. Click this link to learn some essential knowledge about networking: Professional Networking Tips

        Greetings

        First impressions leave a lasting mark on relationships, especially in the business world. Upon meeting someone, you will greet them. A proper greeting includes an exchange of pleasantries while shaking hands. The handshake often times can make or break a first impression. You want to stand about an arm’s length away, lean forward slightly and apply light, but firm pressure. By ensuring you have a firm, proper handshake, you will improve your first impression significantly. Click the link for more information on how to give a proper handshake.

        Handshake Etiquette

         

        While you are exchanging pleasantries during the handshake, make sure you speak clearly so the other person is able to understand you. State your first and last name, the company you work for, and your current title. Speak confidently and smile! Once the other person states their introduction, try to repeat their name in the next sentence. Repeating the other person’s name will enable you to recall their name much easier the next time you two have a discussion. In addition, everyone enjoys hearing their name, so the person you are speaking to will be happy to hear it (Greeting).

        Elevator Speech

        After exchanging introductions, often times you will be asked a question along the lines of, “tell me about yourself?” When asked this question, you should deliver your elevator speech. An elevator speech is a short introduction to who you are, where you work and can include what you can offer, if you are speaking to a job recruiter. The concept of an elevator speech is that it should be short enough to be given during the length of an elevator ride. You never know who you are going to meet. We live in a small world and it is important that you are always ready! It is often used as a form personal marketing and should be utilized when networking.

        Small Talk

        After initial introductions, conversations may lull and small talk may occur. When engaging in small talk, be sure to avoid controversial topics such as religion, politics, etc. Try to choose a topic both parties are interested in and familiar with. One idea to keep in mind before attending a networking event is to do your homework! This means to become familiar with topics that are current, as they may make interesting talking points. If all else fails, talk about the setting. This could mean discussing the physical setting, or the event. For example, if you are attending an event outdoors, you can comment on how nice the weather is. Another option is to discuss how you heard about the event. Maybe you were both invited by the host and have known the host for a significant portion of time. Small talk is a great tool to use when trying to find common ground between both parties and should be utilized effectively.

        Be Different

        When networking, you want to distinguish yourself in a way that you stand out from the crowd. Keep in mind that the person you are speaking to will speak to several others in the room. If you can differentiate yourself, they are more likely to remember you. This is especially useful if you are speaking to a job recruiter. By standing out from other candidates, you are more likely to be selected for a potential job offer, as opposed to just being another person someone meets.

        You want to try to keep in mind what your personal brand is. What is it that you have to offer and why should someone want to get to know you? Sell yourself and show them you would be an asset to their operation. Your personal brand is what and how you want others to remember you. Are you confident in your approach or did you seem reluctant to share information? Know who you are and own your personal brand!

        Eye Contact

        When speaking to someone, maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. This simple act will show you are engaged and genuinely care about what is being said. The speaker will enjoy the conversation more because you are showing that you are paying attention. Picture this, you are trying to speak to someone and he or she is looking at just about everything, but you. How would you feel? As the speaker, you may feel like you are wasting your time due to the fact that you aren’t being heard, or you may be offended that the person does not value what you have to say. Keep this in mind and help it influence your ability to be an effective listener by offering adequate eye contact to the speaker.

        Ask Questions

        Whether you are establishing a connection organically, or at an event, ask questions! When speaking to a person, you are allowing them the chance to speak about themselves. The speaker will enjoy this because everyone likes to talk about themselves. Beyond that, it will show that you are invested in the conversation and relationship that is being established.

        Business Cards

        You never know when you will establish a connection with someone, so always be prepared with business cards. Exchanging business cards with someone enables you to keep in contact with the person you meet. A business card holder is a great investment for business professionals. It enables you to keep your business cards tidy and straight. When given a business card, look at it before putting it away. This will show you are actually interested in developing the relationship you just started. When you do put the business card away, a great place to put it is in your business card holder, with your personal business cards. This simple tip will ensure you won’t misplace the business card and will make it easier to find for future reference (3 Rules).

        Follow Up

        After meeting a person, follow up with them! This could be a simple thank you note thanking them for their time, or for the opportunity to discuss their company. This is another tool that could distinguish you from other potential candidates. This simple gesture will show you care to develop the relationship further and it will not go unnoticed. If a position becomes available, you are more likely to be thought of to fill that position as opposed to another candidate.

        Another great follow up method is to connect with the individual on LinkedIn. This will allow you to maintain a professional social media connection. After some time goes by, continue to show interest in the individual by checking in to see how things are going.

        Some people think being close with just a few people will be enough to get them that job referral or even a promotion. But here’s what a philosophy called the strength in weak ties teaches us. It’s actually those people with whom you are least connected with that offer you the most opportunity.  Everyone knows everyone and word travels, so if you make a good impression with the people whom you are networking with, that is what will most likely land you that job referral (Streamline). Click this link for more information about the strength of weak ties: The Strength of Weak Ties

        These steps will lead you to have a successful image, positive interactions with all those you meet, and will ensure a giant leap in your professional future! It only takes 6 seconds for someone to make a judgement about you. Following these helpful tips will ensure a good judgement is made and show that you truly mean business! Click this link to review some of the helpful tips you have learned: How to Add Value to Your Connections

        Thank you for reading this segment of the Empowerment Series. Look for future posts, once a month, every month for the rest of the year. If you have any questions or comments regarding this segment or if you have a suggestion for a future segment, please email any one of the National Officers.

        Sincerely,

        2015-2016 National Officer Team

         

        Sources

        "3 Rules To Smart Business Card Etiquette | CAREEREALISM." CAREEREALISM. N.p., 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

        "Greeting Customers Professionally." Greeting Customers Professionally. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

        "Handshake Etiquette: Executive Presence Training." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

        "Professional Networking Tips from Career Expert Kathryn Minshew | Phoenix Career Corner." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

        "Professional Networking: How To Add Value to Your Connections." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

        "Streamline Training & Documentation." Streamline Training & Documentation. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

        "The Strength of Weak Ties: New Animation from Dalton Conley." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

        Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.

        Untitled illustration of a handshake. Retrieved February 6, 2016 from https://www.trocaire.edu/trailblazer-blog/networking-like-a-pro-gain-knowledge-find-opportunities/

        Joy, B. (n.d.). Stand Out [Online Image]. Retrieved February 6, 2016 from http://www.w2m.co.uk/blog/stand-out-to-win-new-business.html

        Everyone you meet has something valuable to teach you [Online Quote]. (n.d.). Retrieved February 6, 2016 from http://simplereminders.com/quotes/everyone-meet-something-valuable-teach.html

         

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