You’re a networking whiz. You have “likes” and followers galore—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, even Pinterest. Everyone knows you, everyone that is except for colleagues throughout your organization or professional field. You remember them. They are the ones who identify the up-and-coming talent, and who make decisions about promotions and opportunities for growth and advancement. They don’t spend their time trolling the web or evaluating personal posts of lower level employees. You may think they know you via your online presence, but, in actuality, they may not be able to link your name with your face when you are sitting around a conference table at work.
Networking for professional success still requires personal presence, and all of the old suggestions hold (stand up when shaking hands, look directly at the individual, introduce yourself, don’t mumble, remember their name). The goal is to get them to remember you. There are several ways to make this happen.
First, do your homework. Use your research skills to find out who is attending a meeting or event. Learn their names and be able to recognize them so you can take the initiative to introduce yourself when the opportunity arises. Even better, if you can mention an appropriate fact about them, do so. Congratulate them on an award, or mention the journal article they recently published, or ask about an achievement that was noted in the local paper. People generally like it when you know and say something positive about them.
Be certain you have a short (very short) introduction about yourself ready. For example. “Dr. Smith, I’m Gail Davis. I’m the new planning associate on the state grant. I look forward to being part of your team.” Also, make the short time allotted for introductions around the table count. Take your cue from others. Don’t be too wordy. Don’t sound self-important or self-effacing. Think about what you will say in advance so you sound confident.
Try to attend all company events. If there is a reception for the Board of Directors, go and meet as many of the board members as you can. If your organization supports a community activity, take part in it. These events may occur outside of your normal work schedule, but they can be quite valuable to your career and are a good time investment. They highlight your willingness to be a team player and increase both your visibility and name recognition.
Cast your networking net widely. Don’t just focus on your own department. What you need is for individuals throughout the organization to recognize you, to know your name, and to see you as an “up-and-comer.” Once you have that accomplished, expand even further and work on meeting colleagues in your professional area.
Being connected online is the norm, and you are an expert at it. You have peers and acquaintances around the country. Regardless, personal networking is still an essential skill for moving up that career ladder where you actually work. The more networking you do, the more proficient you will become at it. In time, you may come to value the face-to-face experience even more than your “likes” on Facebook.