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VOL. 129 | NO. 139 | Friday, July 18, 2014

Angela Copeland

Networking How To’s

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One of the best ways to advance a career in a competitive market is through networking. In many ways, it’s both the easiest and hardest part of a search. Today, I received two questions on the topic of networking best practices.

When you’re networking for the purpose of getting ahead, you will want to meet and connect with certain people. For example, if you’re a graphic artist, you may want to meet marketers. If you’re a computer programmer, you may want to get to know more IT professionals. And, if you’re a programmer who wants to become a graphic artist, you’ll want to connect with both.

The first step is to identify events where the people you’re targeting socialize. In Memphis, there are a few large e-mail newsletters that feature local events. Sign up for them to stay in the know. You can also look on sites like Meetup.com, Eventbrite.com and Facebook for events that are open to the public. Last, find the local chapter of professional organizations in your field and review their online calendar.

Next, set a goal. If you are aggressively seeking a new opportunity, plan to attend at least one networking event per week. If you’re up for a challenge, attend the events alone. You’ll be surprised how many more people you’ll meet when you fly solo.

Before entering an event, set another goal. Plan to give away at least five business cards. When you enter the room, look for opportunities to introduce yourself. If two people are facing one another and are engaged in a serious conversation, it may not be the best time to jump in. If they’re shoulder to shoulder or are standing in an open posture, it could be the perfect time. If you’re shy, look for another person standing alone in the room. They’re most likely also shy and would be relieved to make a new friend.

After you’ve talked for a few minutes, offer your business card. Most people will automatically provide theirs in return, so you won’t have to ask for one. Bring a pen and when you have a private moment, jot down notes on the back of their business card to indicate the date you met, where you met and anything special you spoke about.

When you get home, send your new contact an email and a LinkedIn connection request within one day. If they accept your request to connect, follow up with another e-mail asking to meet. You could invite them to coffee, lunch or a quick phone call. If you want to disclose that you’re looking for a job, this would be the best time. Networking events are not the time to share this very private information, as it’s easy for others to overhear you.

Although networking can seem daunting at first, creating a system around it can relieve stress and create consistency. Before you know it, you will have grown your network and your career to new heights.

Angela Copeland is CEO/founder of Copeland Coaching, CopelandCoaching.com, and author of “Breaking The Rules & Getting The Job.” You can follow Copeland Coaching on Twitter (@CopelandCoach) and Facebook (facebook.com/CopelandCoaching).

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