Throughout your life, you will have many opportunities to attend meetings, conferences, and parties where you can meet influential people. Networking is the main reason why many of these people attend these functions, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about trying to make new contacts. People expect that and will be looking to do the same.
Sometimes people refrain from networking because they feel they have to be “fake,” pretending to be someone’s friend when really they just want something from them. This is never appropriate. In fact, if you meet someone who may be in a position to help you, come right out and say so. You will be respected for your honesty. Perhaps there is a way you can help the other person. Be honest and straightforward. Then show your gratitude.
Come prepared for a networking function. Never be without a pen. Not only will you need to write down telephone numbers, but you’ll also want to make notes on what you and the person discussed. It’s easy to forget if you don’t write it down. Ask the person if they have a business card and then make notes on the back of it when you’re done talking. Never give away your business card or phone number and expect someone to contact you. This positions you as the person waiting for the call, which is disempowering. Sometimes people will intend to call but never get around to it. Make sure you have the ability to follow up with the other person. Get their card and phone number. If you commit to contacting them at a certain time, be sure to keep this commitment. If you have not set a specific time, make contact ASAP while you’re still fresh in their mind.
Even if you’re still in school, consider getting your own business cards. They’re not very expensive, and it’s an easy way to give your contact information to people. More importantly, it’s an easy way to get someone else’s card. Be sure to include your e-mail address on your card.
You may also want to read: Connecting With Influential People, Help Yourself by Helping Others, Building Rapport with People or check out the Jump Start Leadership Workbooks.