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Networking Like a Pro

by Theresa Zandi

I speak with technology candidates every day and hear a variety of questions. One of the most recent interesting questions from a tech candidate was, “How can I do a better job of networking?†Everyone spends, or should spend some amount of time networking, but what do we mean by networking and what are some best practices?

The Difference Between Networking Online vs In-Person
The difference between in-person and online may be obvious, but it is simply the anonymity of online vs being physically in front of someone. While online allows you to reach out to many people, it doesn’t translate into relationships unless you take action. Whereas, in-person networking events offer less people, but you get face time with them. Both areas of networking have their pros and cons – it’s how you take advantage of them is the strongest point.

I am of the opinion that it is important to wear a suit to networking events, but not everyone today agrees with that, so simply dress professionally. Further in this article, I go into ways to set yourself apart and make networking work for you. With that said, I want to take a minute to talk about using LinkedIn for your networking. Keep in mind that connecting with people is not simply hitting the connect button. We all need to spend some time getting to know our connections and turning them into relationships. 2000 connections doesn’t equal 2000 people ready to help you.

Things to Keep in Mind When Networking
Networking requires a plan. What types of people do you want to connect with? What are your goals? Do you know people attending? I go into networking with a plan and that plan changes based on the type of event. At meetups or user group sessions, I keep in mind that there is an entire room of people to meet. I also remember that there may be people I already know that I need to reconnect with. Am I there to meet new technology candidates for a particular position or am I trying to meet more people within specific technologies? The answer to both is “yesâ€. You could end up talking to someone that you form a relationship with that won’t do anything for you. Some of the events I attend are to simply meet fellow women business owners so that we can assist each other and even share war stories. Be sure to have a plan.

Seek out those you want to know as opposed to sitting back and waiting for people to approach you. Let them feel that you value the contact. If you are going to a meet-up group, be knowledgeable about the topic. Some Business Analyst candidates attend Project Management networking events because they are looking to move into project management. Be sure that you are able to hold a strong conversation with those around you.

A key point is to always have an elevator pitch. For a technology candidate, this focuses on one simple question, “Who am I in a nutshell?†Approximately 5% of technology candidates have prepared elevator pitches, thus lessening their value proposition. For more on preparing your elevator pitch, click here. While speaking with people, be conscious of both yours and their time. Some conversations are not the right fit. It is okay to move on to other people by simply excusing yourself. Another common issue for technology candidates is having a business card or shareable contact information on your phone. While meeting with your new contact, don’t be afraid to ask to exchange information through texting right there on the spot.

One thing people forget is the importance of following up and it should occur within 24 hours. Following up is not just about sending over a resume, it is confirming that you appreciated their time and that you are glad to get to know them. Sincerity is key in your follow up and remember that it is alright to get to know someone before you ask them to do something for you. Many people jump right to the “Ask†before establishing rapport.

Tips for Networking Like A Pro
Networking pros standout because they perform nearly all of the tasks below.

  • They come with a plan
  • They work the room
  • They have their elevator pitch down
  • They dress the part
  • They have great eye contact and exude positive body language (SMILE!)
  • They listen twice as much as they talk (you have 2 ears and 1 mouth – use them accordingly)
  • They use their time wisely
  • They step out of their comfort zone
  • They always follow up afterward
  • They are prepared to share contact information

I hope this provides a good foundation for all of you networkers. Be prepared to put yourself out there because you never know what you will get in return.

About Centurion Consulting Group
Centurion Consulting Group, LLC, a Woman-Owned Small Business headquartered in Herndon, VA conveniently located near Washington D.C., is a national IT Services consulting firm servicing the public and private sector by delivering relevant solutions for our client’s complex business and technology challenges. Our leadership team has over 40 years of combined experience, to include almost 10 years of direct business partnership, to the IT staffing, federal contracting, and professional services industries. Centurion’s leaders have the demonstrated experience over the past three decades in partnering with over 10,000 consultants and hundreds of clients – from Fortune 100 to Inc. 5000 firms – in multiple industries to include banking, education, federal, financial, healthcare, hospitality, insurance, non-profit, state and local, technology, and telecommunications. www.centurioncg.com

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