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How To Network Like a Pro

Over the past 5 years I've attended numerous events in Austin, mostly professional and career building events but also many blogging events. Naturally I'm a very outgoing person, so networking doesn't come as difficult to me as it might to others. Today I'm sharing my tips on how I network, and how I make true connections that have led to new jobs and new friendships.

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1. RESEARCH / JOIN
Do your research and "like" all the Facebook groups of networking groups, associations, and clubs  you're interested in networking with. I follow the AMA (American Marketing Association), Austin Bloggers and Austin Digital Jobs because I want to know when they are hosting events. I usually only attend free events, but every once in a while I will pay to attend an event if I feel like it's worth it.

2. PREPARE
Research what companies or people will be attending the event you plan on going to. If the event is posted on Facebook you will often see who has RSVP'd. I went to a Digital Marketing event and I looked up who all the speakers were going to be and prior to the event reached out to each one on LinkedIn. I asked to "connect" with them and in the note I let them know I was looking forward to hearing them speak. Each person wrote me back and accepted my request! When I walked up to them at the event most remembered me, which makes it less awkward when introducing yourself. However, if you haven't made contact prior to an event, don't feel scared to walk right up to the person you're intending to meet and introduce yourself.

If you have business cards bring them! If you don't, make them. I have a card for my day job as well as blogging.

3. ENGAGE
Here's the thing. People are interested in what you do for a career, but they don't care about how well you do your job. At least during your first conversation. They want to get to know you as a person. Honestly, this is why I feel like networking can have MAJOR benefits. Maybe you feel like you don't have a good enough resume, but you have strong drive, a passion for learning, and a great personality. This can come out in the conversations you have, and ultimately you could connect with someone that might get your foot in the door for your next opportunity. Many people have been able to land their dream jobs not necessarily because of their resume, but because they created a connection that stood out.

4. WRITE IT DOWN
Sometimes the moment might not be right to hand someone your business card or maybe it's a less formal event and the person you're speaking didn't bring theirs. REMEMBER their name and when you're done with the conversation write their name down in your phone. When your meeting lots of people it can be hard to remember everyone's name the next day, so having a list on your phone is very helpful!

5. FOLLOW UP
The next day I will take the business cards I received out of my purse and look at the list of names on my phone and send each person a message on LinkedIn. I will send an invitation to "Connect" and write a personalized message highlighting something we spoke about. Depending on the person/connection I will try to set up a time to meet for coffee or drinks. This really depends on the conversation we had and if we spoke about meeting up again. I've met bloggers and working moms at events that I've then scheduled to meet so we could talk more in depth.

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I always find it interesting to hear about how other's landed their current job. Here's a breakdown of mine, which were all through KNOWING someone.

I got my first job in Austin when I met the owner of the company at a liquor tasting inside Spec's. I was friendly, tried the product, and emailed him a few days later. Come to find out they were looking for a Marketing Manager. I honestly didn't have the experience, but he liked my personality and work ethic. HIRED!

I interviewed at State Farm because of a family friend who recommended me, and when I was promoted a year later it helped I had networked like crazy! When I left State Farm for Big Red, my hometown friend worked there and was able to give my resume directly to the hiring manager. 

If you are an introvert I can understand how hard going to events might be, but do it for your career or whatever you are trying to accomplish! Be confident, bold and most importantly BE YOURSELF! You can also bring a friend to be your wingman ; ).