Want to improve your networking skills to meet more people, score a new job or more business, and help others do the same? We’ll tell you how we do it.

We can all agree that networking can lead to new relationships, new business and career opportunities, and personal growth. Knowing all that doesn’t make it any easier for most people to do.

Why not? Mostly because it takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to watch your network grow. There’s also the fear of talking to strangers, not knowing what to say, or being rejected.

But we know networking is an investment that’s worth it. So, we asked our women leaders to help you by giving us their best advice on how to network like a champion.

Here’s what they had to say:

#1: Be Positive

Gina Heffner, Vice President and Columbus Practice Lead, believes in the power of positive networking.

In other words, “networking is not about you and how others can help you. Instead, it’s about others, and how you can help them.” How can you be a positive networker? Gina has some tips:

  • Bring two people together at every opportunity: “Meet Dan. He’s a marketing genius; you need to talk with him.”
  • Act like a host. Rescue a wallflower. Include people who are on the sideline or left out of the mealtime conversations.
  • Pass on some information or a contact name that would help someone in her endeavors: “I’d like to set up a meeting with a friend of mine who may be able to help you.”
  • Tell someone about your product or service if you believe it can be of use to him: “Since you do business in Mexico, you might be interested in the online translation services our company offers.”

She also recommends reading the books “Never Eat Alone” and “Work the Pond,” both of which talk about the concept of positive networking.

#2: Try Online

Carmen Fontana, National Cloud Lead, says you don’t have to leave home to network:

  • Don’t underestimate the power of your social and digital networks. I once got a sales meeting with a top executive at a local company just because our kids went to the same daycare. I also use my @centricconsulting email address for all my kids’ sports teams. Their coaches send mass emails several times a week, and all the parents on the team see that I work for Centric. That has opened up several business-oriented conversations.
  • Social media! Use it to your advantage. I have developed many virtual relationships through social media – people I wouldn’t normally have access to. Those virtual relationships can be just as advantageous as “real life” ones.

#3: Stay Connected

Heather Bahorich, National Learning Manager, recommends keeping in touch.

“Networking goes far beyond the meeting point of the networking event. I am making it a goal to stay connected or reconnect with those that I have met at events like these throughout the year over lunch. Personally, I am striving to have two meals a month with people that I have met so that the relationship continues to grow, mature, and be nurtured.”

Don’t miss Heather’s blog: Five Tips For Continuous Learning That Help Grow Your Career.

#4: Ask Questions

Morgan Howard, Senior IT Consultant in Columbus, doesn’t stick to the same, old questions. She tries to get to the passion.

“When meeting someone for the first time at a networking event or out in the community, I opt to ask them “What are you passionate about?” instead of the standard “What do you do?”

More often than not, asking someone what they’re passionate about will introduce unique aspects of their life and personal interests that we may have in common – beyond just their professional role (which always comes up in conversation).”

#5: Have Fun

Renee Giacalone, believes in the power of networking for fun.

“Networking doesn’t have to be job-related. In fact, it’s more interesting if it’s related to a topic that you are personally passionate about. I used my job transition time to try several networking opportunities. They all had merit but some were a better fit than others.

Over time and after I returned to work, I limited my participation to organizations where I felt a strong connection. But, without experimenting, I would not have known about them. I also started volunteering and met some terrific people.”

#6: Build Trust

Kim Caruthers, Miami Practice Lead, believes in nurturing relationships. Some of her favorite ways to do that include:

  • We host a Women Leaders networking event, and I make it a policy to not promote or sell anything during the event. It’s a great way to get to know people, build trust and camaraderie.
  • Sometimes I ask to meet with executives simply to get their advice on the local market and recommendations to grow our business. Folks like to be the expert and generally don’t mind helping out a fellow community member.
  • I’m not just a member of chambers and councils. I volunteer on sub-committees. I find this is a great way to build trusting relationships by working on a community project or event with other professionals.

#7: Work It

Colleen McFarland, Change Management Consultant in Chicago, says to succeed in networking you have to treat it like your job. Here’s how:

  • Consider your goals and how networking can help
  • Look at your networking practices
  • Explore your “people”  – who can you get to know more, catch up with or meet
  • Think about how you can grow – what practices could you work on
  • Decide what you want to work on and why – set networking goals and do it!

#8: Say Hello

Christy Burns, Recruiting and Operations Manager in Cincinnati, doesn’t wait for networking functions to network.

“Wherever I go, professionally or personally, I introduce myself to every person I have not met. Whether it is the parents of a new soccer team my child has joined, or walking into a Centric sponsored client event. The relationship may stop at Hello or lead to stronger relationships down the line.”

It doesn’t have to be in person. You can do this on LinkedIn, too. Not Facebook. Identify someone you want to connect with, send them a short message to introduce yourself, and get to know that person.

“Some of us take for granted the power of LinkedIn. I have challenged myself to make at least five new connections each week. I was surprised how easy this is.”

#9: Keep Learning

Erica Camiliere, Delivery Excellence and Unmatched Client Experiences Lead, says the more you know, the easier it is.

“Exercise continuous improvement in becoming a well-rounded person. Knowing a little about a lot of different subjects allows you to converse with many different people. It isn’t about trying too hard, but instead about making people feel comfortable. That will deepen the conversation.”

#10: Fight Fear

Kellie Koschmeder, Consultant in St. Louis, has some favorite tips for walking up to people you don’t know at an event:

  • Always try to get a card and add them immediately to your LinkedIn, that way the next time you see that person at a function, there is the facial name recognition and you don’t have as much fear talking to them again. If you forget, at the very least, you can pull up your LinkedIn and find the information on the spot.
  • If you have trouble talking to people, look for people who are wearing interesting clothes – like a pretty scarf or jacket – and comment on that. Similarly, wearing something that is eye-catching will attract people to you.
  • Wear something that makes you feel confident or powerful. I know someone who wore their grandfather’s U.S. Army tags (hidden, of course) and would repeat to themselves: “If my grandpa could get through WWII, I can get through this.” The same advice applies for public speaking, too.

Kathryn C. Wheat, author of “Networking: Naked and Unafraid” says: “Networking is simply starting a conversation with no destination in mind.”

As you network, stay true to yourself and adopt a positive attitude about it. You’ll gain more confidence and some new connections. You’ll also have some fun along the way and may even learn a lot about yourself in the process. So give it a try!

Don’t forget to let us know if these tips helped you.

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