Being an entrepreneur and all, I have to get my hiney in gear and take advantage of any and all networking opportunities. The next great job or client can be found…well ANYWHERE. I have gotten job interviews meeting someone in a restaurant, gotten clients from striking up a conversation on the subway. The world is our oyster ladies and all you have to do is figure out how to harvest them. If you are looking for a place to practice your networking skills, go where the busy entrepreneurs go…..go to get some more education and meet other busy entrepreneurs by earning an organizational development degree from an accredited school. Here are five helpful tips for networking a.k.a. harvesting your oysters:
1. Look the part. Never go anywhere where you might be seen not looking the part. If you are going to an event where a lot of industry heavyweights will be, spend the extra cashola for a blow dry or some extra time in the mirror. I never go to a big event without making sure I have a pulled together look. In fact, I have skipped events when I knew I didn’t have time to really pull myself together properly. It takes two seconds to size someone up, so make sure your 2 second glance is worth it.
2. Smile. If you are not sure what to say or how to strike up a conversation, smile and say hello. A smile is infectious. When I am in a situation where I feel socially awkward. I smile and say hello to the closest person. 9 times out of 10 a conversation will ensue. If the hello is followed by awkward silence, I stir my drink, bid them adieu and move on.
3. Find someone with a great outfit or accessory talking in a group and interject to compliment the item. This works EVERY time. I can’t tell you how many people I have met because I am not shy about compliments. When I see a woman sporting a fab look, I feel that she deserves to know someone noticed! I love when she is in a group chatting with people because I can just go up, say excuse me and tell her how fab she looks in front of everyone else. This usually gets me an “in” on the conversation and sometimes a new friend. We need to be supportive of other women and send the right energy out into the world and I believe giving a woman kudos on her personal appearance or style is a great way to do this.
4. Have business cards easily accessible. If you are on the hunt for a new job, order personal contact cards and have them easily accessible at ALL times. I am not the most organized gal in the world, so I load EVERY purse I own with business cards and refill once a month. I never want to be somewhere and not have a card ready. Added bonus: I re-discover fun purses when I am in refill mode.
5. If all else fails look for the lone soldier and go talk to them. We’ve all been to those functions where EVERYONE knows EVERYONE except for you and the bartender. When that happens to me and I am feeling especially awkward, I quickly scan the room and find someone standing by themselves. I beeline it over to them, smile, say hi and ask them how they are connected to the event. If I really can’t find anyone by themselves talking to the bar tender or someone at the venue can actually prove to be fruitful networking as well. I got a tip on a gig from a bartender at an event once.
The truth is you really never do know where you will meet someone. I have made business contacts in magazine section of Barnes & Noble, on the Subway, in a hair salon and even in the grocery store. Keep your eyes and ears open when you are out and about and don’t be afraid to speak up if someone says something that piques your interest.
*Please note I was compensated for a link, but I just took a webinar myself and take courses at my local community college and online frequently, so I am a big believer in this.