Networking Tips That Will Make You Stand Out

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The birthplace of a career opportunity is always the same — and it isn’t on a job board. It’s at a table, in a text or within a Slack channel, where the inevitable question arises for the very team looking to fill the role:

“Do you know anyone who would be perfect for this?”
My question to you, what are you doing to be at the top of that list?

I knew early on I couldn’t depend on my resume or test scores to get my foot in the door of potential employers. I wasn’t the smartest person in the room, but I understood people and used relationships to establish a network of people that would eventually pave the way throughout my career.

The goal: stay top of mind through networking and relationship building to ensure I was TOTL — Top of That List.

The challenge: network like your resume doesn’t exist, because in 10 years chances are it won’t.

Here are five quick tips on how to make the “I know a guy/girl list,” by navigating one of the most useful tools… those pesky networking events:

  1. Get Grounded: As a high functioning introvert, I know the struggles of networking. One thing to help me get past my hatred fear of small talk was the understanding that no one likes networking. If someone tells you otherwise they’re lying to help counterbalance their clear disdain for it.

    With that understanding, it will help relieve some of the pressures that come along with networking and calm your desire to pretend scroll through your phone in the corner all night.

  2. Pre-Game: No, not that kind of pre-game. Very few can waltz right into a networking event unprepared and have success. The prep work you put in will calm that socializing stress and showcase your confidence. Light rehearsal of typical small talk questions: “What do you do?” and  “What types of things are you working on?” will ensure you’re not stuck with the typical responses that lack substance, like “I’m good, things are busy!”

    Stay up to date on current events, timely articles or publications that can fodder conversation. Focus on what can showcase your expertise and knowledge.

  3. The Golden Business Card: Quite often one of the biggest tips for networking success is, to me, bad advice. They say never go to a networking event without a stack of business cards. I say, take one. In today’s social space, that’s not totally crazy. You can literally connect with anyone you want. But the point is to prioritize who you approach, engage and ultimately connect with.

    Quite often, events now share lists of attendees ahead of time. If this is the case, find the individuals and companies you’d like to connect with and go with the intention of talking with them. I’ve paid to go to events with hundreds of people with the sole purpose of talking to one. Of course, there is clear value in the unplanned conversations and introductions, but with a targeted approach, you focus your energy on what, and who matters most to you.

  4. Follow Up: The most important piece of networking isn’t even done at the event, it’s the follow-up. A well worded, thoughtful and genuine message is the difference between the trash and a reply. Try not to bring up your internship needs or attach your resume. This is to connect in a meaningful way, keep it short and ask for nothing.
  5. Garden Maintenance: Networking is a garden – you have to dig it. Imagine every relationship as a seed that’s been planted. Just like garden care, each plant comes with varying care instructions. Some seeds will blossom to something fruitful, while others will lay dormant for weeks, months or years. It’s up to you to be perceptive enough to provide each seed with the proper care for the best chance of its bloom. Too much water and it will drown. Not enough sun and it won’t grow. Managing your network and relationships are no different.

Courtesy of Matt Prince

Matt currently leads Taco Bell’s earned media, communications integration, and special projects for the global brand. This includes food and digital innovation, brand engagement and cultural topspin. He is responsible, in part, for several of culture’s biggest contributions: Taco Bell weddings, Taco Bell Beer, creation of the taco emoji and saving the world’s first Taco Bell… you’re welcome.

Previously, Prince lead social media engagement for the Walt Disney Co. where he developed and managed the company’s first ever Social Media Command Center and online engagement program. Prior to that, Prince was Sr. Manager of Executive Communications, handling speech writing and strategic communications for the President of Disneyland and over 70 executives.

Before Disney, Prince served as Director of Communications for the Orange County Business Council where he was responsible for all marketing, media, web and communication components for the organization representing over 200 of Southern California’s largest employers. Prior to that, he worked in the Public Information and Mayor’s office for the City of Anaheim where he was responsible for the strategic marketing campaign for the City’s 150th Anniversary.

Recently, Prince was named to ADWEEK’s 31 Young Influentials List and has been named to two 40 Under 40 lists: PR Week and OC Metro Magazine. He is a frequent speaker at universities around the country on topics of personal branding, social media, professional development and millennial workforce trends.

He served as President of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Orange County Chapter in 2014 and is the advisor to his alma mater (California State University Fullerton’s) PRSSA student chapter since 2011. He was recently inducted to the PRSSA National Hall of Fame and was named ‘National Advisor of the Year’ twice (2013 & 2015).

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