Networking: Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner
When I learned it would be my turn to be in the spotlight, I tried to think of the things I wish I would have known when I got in to the industry. After some back and forth, I decided my #1 wish had been a guide to networking within the promo world. When I first started, I quickly realized that there is a very unique and close knit community that exists within our industry. While this appealed to me, it also was a bit intimidating to try to break in to such a close group with people that were usually 10+ years older that I was. I had some amazing opportunities to network in my first year, but I never was able to really capitalize on them. My goal with this list is to not only reach out to industry newbies, but also those who have new-hires within their company that they may be able to help.
On that note, here is are ten networking tips for the promo world:
1. GET OUT THERE AND MEET PEOPLE
In this golden age of technology there really isn’t much need for you to even leave your home, let alone your office. This means you really need to make an effort to get out there and meet people. This means doing things like spending time with coworkers outside of work, attend association meetings (such as Beers with Peers, perhaps?), conferences, etc. This industry and PPAW in particular have a lot of opportunities available, you just need to take the time to find them!
2. BRING BUSINESS CARDS EVERYWHERE
When you are getting out there and meeting people, you need to bring business cards with you. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it was a mistake I made when I first started. It’s no use meeting people if you don’t exchange information. You’re meeting people with the intent of building relationships, which can only be done if you can contact each other. So, bring those business cards everywhere you go!
3. EXCHANGE INFORMATION WITH EVERYONE YOU MEET
Whenever you’re out and about meeting people, have your information in hand readily available to exchange. Don’t leave a conversation without exchanging information. Even if it’s a bit forced, it’s better than not getting the information at all. If the person with whom you’re exchanging information doesn’t have business cards on them, have them write down their name and email for you on the back of one of your business cards. It’s important for you to be the one with the other person’s information so you have the opportunity to reach out to them.
4. FOLLOW UP VIA EMAIL
Whether it is a tradeshow, networking event or convention you are guaranteed to meet a lot of people. You are also guaranteed to forget some of them immediately after returning home. A quick e-mail with a “thank you” or “great to meet you!” makes a huge difference and can serve as the first brick in building a new relationship. When you receive an e-mail after meeting someone, you know they have taken some time out of their day to specifically reach out to you which makes a big difference.
5. SCHEDULE LUNCHES OR DRINKS WITH PEOPLE IN OUR INDUSTRY
One thing I love about this industry is that is a pretty social one. Most people love the opportunity to grab lunch or some drinks outside of work. Whether they are co-workers or people you have met at a networking event, setting time to get together out of the office can really help solidify a connection.
6. CONNECT ON LINKEDIN (OR OTHER RELEVANT SOCIAL MEDIA SITES)
In addition to connecting with new people via email, reach out to them on LinkedIn. With social media seeming to have taken over all of our lives, LinkedIn has become a great place to be able to stay in touch with your contacts on a professional level. A professional Facebook page can work too, however not everyone is comfortable connecting on Facebook so LinkedIn is usually the safer bet.
7. FIND A MENTOR
Depending on where you are in the industry, this can be a bit of a daunting task but it is well worth it. You can read all the articles in the world on networking but that just doesn’t compare to getting advice from someone who has been in the industry for some time. While many of you have a natural ability to socialize, it is still nice to have someone there who can help you with anything from who to connect with to how to dress.
8. GIVE, DON’T TAKE (OFFER TO HELP INSTEAD OF ASKING FOR SOMETHING)
When you are meeting with new people, focus on how you can help them. People really appreciate help. There is nothing worse than making a new connection with someone and then immediately being asked for something and for most people, this could be enough to end a connection. Obviously we are in a sales driven industry, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help each other out in some way or another.
9. SEND HAND-WRITTEN THANK-YOU CARDS
Whenever someone gives you something, send a handwritten thank-you card. In the age of e-mail and the internet the hand written card has fallen by the wayside. Most people only receive catalogs, advertisements, invoices, and junk in the mail so when a hand written letter comes in, it stands out. Never forget the power of the personal touch!
10. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR NETWORKING
Finally, keep track of all the networking you’re doing. Whether it’s in Evernote, Excel, or in a good ‘ol fashioned little black book, you need to keep track of your connections. A giant stack of business cards on your desk does no one any good. You never know when you will need to find an old contact so a simple database can make a huge difference.
I hope these can help you all and best of luck as we begin the second half of 2017!
CSE Business Development Manager
Global Relationship Manager