Networking like a Pro

By: Minda Harts

Having a career in the development industry for the last 10 years I‘ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of new people. Relationship building is what I get paid to do and of course raising millions of dollars. Networking is one of those words that can bring a smile to one’s face or seem like a chore. People tell me, “You are so good at networking and making new friends, how do you it?” Here are 3 sure fire tips to help you navigate your personal and professional network.

1) Practice makes perfect.

Pick one or two new people to say hello to in the office or on a quick lunch break. If you aren’t used to striking up new conversations this is a great way to start. You don’t have to tell your life story, but a little eye contact and a friendly hello goes along way and won’t make you look like a creeper. If you’re feeling ambitious, check out a networking event in your city and try it out for size. There will be a room full of people looking to put their skills into action just like you.

2) Follow up, follow up.

Someone you meet today could be beneficial five years from now, and vice versa. Make it a point to remember personal information about people: like birthdays, favorite teams, and something related to their family. This creates opportunities to stay in touch with amazing people you meet along the way. About six years ago I was raising money for a college venture capital fund in Silicon Valley and I regularly met with some of the top Venture Capitalists in the country. At the time, I didn’t realize how important those relationships would be; but as a new entrepreneur I have a great network to tap into. I stayed in contact, wishing them happy anniversary and checking in when their children went off to college. That wasn’t part of my job, I genuinely wanted to stay in touch and I’ve heard time and time again how much they appreciate that I remember those milestones. Wouldn’t you like someone to remember fun facts about you? And because I followed up, they remember things about me and we continue to foster our relationship. Reciprocity goes along way!

3) Be Authentic.

Sometimes you meet people who pride themselves on being networking kings and queens, but some lack tact. No one wants to feel like you’re schmoozing up to them because you want something in return. Take time to get to know people and let people get to know you. I can’t stress this enough! Sometimes being in a room full of people can make you feel vulnerable and the need to beef up your resume. Be proud of your accomplishments and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the world.

Final thoughts

Networking doesn’t have to be daunting; building new relationships can be fun. These three tips helped me build some priceless relationships. If you’re meeting your company’s janitor or CEO for the first time, use each introduction as an opportunity to build better networking skills.