There is never a wrong time to improve on your networking skills. Even for IT pros who are currently employed, rubbing elbows with the right people can help you land work down the road when and if it becomes necessary. I've compiled a list of dos and don’ts for networking with peers in and around IT. They may seem small, but they'll go a long way toward helping you leave a lasting impression.
- Beef up your elevator pitch. Conveying what you do in matter of a few seconds is extremely important. I’ve met people at network events, talked with them for 10 minutes or more and still walked away not knowing what they do.
- Strive to meet as many people as possible. Networking is a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more quality people you'll meet. Also remember, who you know is important, but who knows you is critical.
- Call people by their first name. When you do, you show them that you know who they are and that you’re interested in building a relationship.
- Get to know people on a personal level. Ask them where they're from, how long they've been in their current position and so on. Building trust is important before segueing into work discussions.
- Ask questions and let the people share their stories. The interest you express will build others' self-esteem and increase their desire to work with you.
- Find out how you can help the people you meet. Sending business their way is one of the best things you can do to enhance your own career. It also goes a long way toward getting others to return the favor. Your rewards will pay off down the road when you least expect it.
- Stay in touch. When the people you’ve networked with are looking to fill a new position, you should be the first person they think of.
- Write personalized thank-you notes. If you meet or have lunch with someone new, send them a simple note through regular mail. You'll stand out in today’s world of electronic overload.
- Set a goal to attend at least two networking events per month. Being away from the office just a few hours a month to meet good people and build relationships pays you back immediately.
- Don't assume that social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the only networking tools you need. People like doing business with professionals they know, trust and have met at least once or twice. The best way to cultivate good business relationships is to speak with others in person.
- Don’t blindly request people to connect with you via LinkedIn. Before people trust your intentions, they have to know who you are and how it will affect them. They will also wonder whether or not connecting with you will help or hurt their reputations, so make sure your reputation is a good one.
- Don't go to networking events just because you need something. Consistently attend events even when you don’t have to. Networking is just as much about helping others as it is about helping yourself.
- Don't snub someone because of their title. That sales rep, human resources manager or warehouse supervisor you meet may be the very person that helps you land your next gig.
- Don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards. Explaining that you forgot your cards or ran out doesn’t make a good first impression.
- Don’t give up. If you go to an event and don’t meet anyone, let that motivate you to go again and make yourself known the next time. People like to see familiar faces, so stay at it.
The work, recognition and income you currently receive are the results of choices and decisions you made in the past. Think long-term: What can you do today that will benefit you tomorrow? Networking with others is one of the best things you’ll ever do for your reputation and credibility. Practice and fine-tune these points over time. They will help you tremendously throughout the rest of your IT career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Beaver is an information security consultant, expert witness, author and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic, LLC. With over 22 years of experience in the industry and over 10 years working for himself, Kevin specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around compliance and minimizing information risks. He has authored/co-authored 10 books on information security including the best-selling Hacking For Dummies, 3rd edition. In addition, he’s the creator of the Security On Wheels information security audio books and blog providing security learning for IT professionals on the go. You can reach Kevin through his website www.principlelogic.com and follow him on Twitter at @kevinbeaver.
This was first published in April 2011