The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to network? is written by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.
Business networking is now more important than ever, thanks to the availability of popular social platforms like Twitter, Facebook (FB) and LinkedIn (LNKD). But one thing I always recommend people do is place importance on the value of face-to-face networking. Even with all of the social platforms mentioned above, in-person networking still has a tremendous amount of value, and there are definitely some big do’s and don’ts you should follow to make sure you get the most out of it.
Throughout the last decade, I have built up my brand through many different online platforms: On Twitter (TWTR) I engage with people, Facebook allows me to share content and YouTube gives me a platform to have my own show. But there is an entirely different strategy involved when you attend networking events or walk into a meeting. Social media can act as the introduction, but in the end, you want to get down to business.
The ideal way to approach networking opportunities is to create an environment that shows three things: who you are, what your strengths are and what you’re passionate about.
That can be a lot to convey in the space that networking provides, but thinking of yourself as the offense will help you keep those three points in mind as you go, and conversations will naturally flow. Just talk to and engage with as many people as possible, and be open and forward about what you do and who you are. I would ask a lot of questions, but I also wouldn’t necessarily wait for people to ask you questions. Be on the offense with in-person networking.
One thing I strongly advise against is trying to figure out who the “top dog” is and attaching yourself to him or her for the duration of an event. This is a very defensive move because you’re already jumping ahead. “Who is going to get me the most bang for my buck once we leave here?” Don’t think like that. Just get on the offense and engage. Be open. Plus, if you focus on one person, you might miss talking to that one guy who could’ve made all of your (professional) dreams come true. Everyone has something to offer and everyone has a story, but you won’t know specifics until you ask and learn about all of them.
Essentially, let serendipity take over. In many situations, face-to-face networking can feel a bit sleazy very quickly. I think this happens when people have a hardcore objective going in (like finding the top dog, as I mentioned above). If you go in with a bit more openness, that can help immensely.
So be on the offense. Let chance take over a bit. And learn to relax and enjoy yourself. Networking is fun and full of opportunities.
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NYSE President: I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking by Tom Farley, president of the NYSE.