How to Network at Any Age

The word “networking” can mean very different things to different people. Ask a 50-year-old executive how to network, it would probably look something like a training luncheon at the local convention center, or an evening drink at a mixer organized by a social club. Networking to a 25-year-old developer most likely involves pizza, beer, pajamas and a laptop. Though the look of networking has vastly changed over the last twenty years, the definition is still the same.

According to Entrepreneur.com contributor and Founder of BNI, Ivan Misner, networking is “the process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.” But how one goes about this process is as different as the generation into which they were born.

 

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There has always been a struggle to balance the old and the new, tradition and innovation. The new generation gets frustrated with what they see as stagnation, and the seasoned generation can often get overwhelmed with the steep learning curve of technology. And networking is no different. Yet, the perfect approach, like anything, is balance. A powerful combination of the positive aspects of both is the winning strategy. A professional that can master face-to-face AND digital networking is sure to reap benefits throughout his/her career.

3 Tips for Traditional Networking

1.     Be consistent. Choose one or two networking events to attend each month. Though it’s difficult and time consuming to attend all the events that come along, choose one or two to commit to. Networking is about building relationships, so attending the same kind of event on a regular basis will help you to connect with people who will remember who you are and what you do.

2.     Be authentic. No one likes the “sales guy.” Don’t be that guy. You can talk about your business or your work, but don’t constantly try to sell your services. People who are interested in your services will remember you and seek you out.

3.     Be helpful. People remember someone who goes out of their way to help others. If someone mentions they need work on their car, jump in and offer to connect them with your reliable mechanic. Or if a colleague mentions needing a good childcare center, offer to help them get an appointment at the center your kids attend.

3 Tips for Social Networking

1.     Utilize LinkedIn. LinkedIn is essential to professional networking. Create a professional profile and connect with as many local professionals as you can.

2.     Privatize your personal profiles. Make sure to check your privacy settings frequently. Many social media sites will automatically update on mobile devices, and this can often change your privacy settings.

3.     Join groups. One of the best ways to utilize social media to your advantage is to join groups related to your business or field of work. You can glean tips from veterans and make valuable connections. 

What do you think are the most effective networking tools?