When you think of networking, you probably picture a bunch of professionals in suits passing around business cards while they eat hor devours. In reality, networking is something that can happen during a trip to a grocery store in your yoga pants. No matter where you network though, these contacts you create could make or break your career. Confused? Let's break it down.
What Does Networking Really Mean?
For starters, let's talk about the term "networking." According to Merriam-Webster, networking is, "the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business." Essentially, it means making a connection with a person or group of people who can mutually benefit from one another's insight into business. If you just graduated from beauty school though, you probably don't think you have much to offer someone who has successfully run a business for years. Believe it or not, they're just as interested in learning from you as you are from them. Before we dig into the "how" there are a few steps you should take to make sure you're ready to network.
Preparing To Network
Step #1: Order business cards. Not only do they help connections get in contact with you, but they can be personalized to help them remember your interaction. When it comes to designing your cards, you don't have to stick with rectangular cards either. Here are some sites that can help: Moo, Etsy, and Vistaprint.
You'll notice that most Etsy shops offer gorgeous custom designs that you purchase then use a website like Moo to print the cards. This is an awesome way to get cards you WANT to hand out to strangers. When I was first looking for a job, I ordered tiny square cards similar to these with just my name, email, and phone number listed. Everyone I met complimented me on my cards and usually followed up because they remembered my unique cards.
Step #2: Always keep a handful of cards on you at all times. I typically have three stuck in my wallet or bag (they also sell chic business card holders.) Every time I go out, whether it's to the bar, spin class, or the coffee shop I have a few on me. You never know who you're going to meet.
Step #3: Make it personal. Let's say you have a great conversation with someone and you decide to exchange information. Write a short message ON your card about your interaction. For example, maybe you talked about an upcoming sale a barista is having at her shop. Write, "Hope your event goes well! -Michelle" on your card. Because you're in this industry you know that people respond to people; putting your handwriting on your card and making notes about your conversation will make your contact 1) remember you and 2) be more willing to get together and discuss business in the future.
Step #4: Know yourself. This step might seem strange: how can you not know yourself? I specifically mean knowing your goals, your skill set, and your weaknesses. If you know what you're good at, where you want to be, and what you need help with, you know how your skills can benefit someone else and what someone else can help teach you. This allows you to go into conversations already thinking about the potential mutual benefits.
Step #5: Do your homework. If you're preparing to go to an event where you'll have an opportunity to make connections (a trade show, salon or spa open house, a young professionals mixer in your city) research some of the people who might attend. Maybe there's a colorist you follow on Instagram that's going to have a booth at a trade show. You love his color melt technique and really wish you knew how to create the same effect on your clients. Make it your plan to introduce yourself at the show and to specifically mention your admiration for his technique. Chat for a bit and end the conversation by asking if you could have his contact information in case you run into issues down the line. He'll likely agree and you two can exchange information. By going into a networking event with a game plan, you're preparing yourself not only to meet people but to create lasting connections that could really boost your career.
Stay tuned for part two of our networking series: the art of connecting.
Photo: Shutterstock | ElevenStudio
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Michelle Campbell is the Content Marketing Specialist for MiladyPro.
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