Spring into Networking: Best Practices to Form Strategic Connections

As the weather warms around Greater Boston, there’s no better time to get out, network, and expand your professional connections. While market conditions can change, the value of networking never will: it is truly one of your biggest assets for personal and professional growth.

So how can you make the most of it? Here are some simple tips to spring forward your networking savvies in the coming months:

Pick the right venue: There are many networking events around Greater Boston and beyond. Some are industry-specific or limited to certain age groups and professional levels – while others are more broad-based. The general rule of thumb: in most cases, the more diverse the audience, the better. Events with professionals from all sizes and scope allow you to maximize the potential of your network; whether it’s connecting with seasoned executives or emerging leaders. Everyone has something to offer you. Don’t limit yourself.

Have a goal – and but be open-minded. Are you networking to cultivate new business leads? Recruit talent for your organization? Or simply form long-lasting relationships that’ll carry you throughout your career? All of these objectives are fine, but they shouldn’t solely dictate your networking experiences. Don’t stick to one goal. Let networking take its course. If you’re solely looking to find new prospects, you might not recognize other unexpected benefits and connections that come your way.

Preview what’s ahead. Avoid walking into networking sessions blindly. Try to get insight into the types of attendees – and if possible, their specific names and organizations. And from there, create a shortlist of who you’d absolutely need to meet, keeping it to a focused 3-5 individuals per event. Fortunately, a few networking organizers (such as the Chamber) offer attendee lists beforehand. If you can get your hands on them, they are your secret weapon.

Treat it like dating (kind of): Okay, not exactly, but networking can be similar to dating. You meet someone, start with some small talk, then see where it goes. In the end, some contacts will give you value; others might not. Regardless, always give the other person a chance. Act respectful, don’t talk about yourself too much (at first), and follow up in a timely fashion. First opinions always matter, and you want to get it right. But unlike dating, there’s no need to be nervous.

Be selfless – not selfish. All too often people walk into networking sessions with their own agendas – and their actions reflect that, putting the skids on meaningful connections before they even have a chance to develop. When you’re networking, make a point to listen more than you’re talking.  This gives the other person the impression you value what they’re saying, and in turn, they’ll open up more to you. It also sets the foundation for mutually beneficial relationship, also giving you better sense on how they can help you.

Networking takes a lot of work – and practice. But in the end, it can only really truly help you, your career, and your business.

So get out there and have fun! And if you’re looking for the right networking events around Boston, here is a quick guide.