In today’s tough economic times, it’s imperative on your part to hone your networking skills for your professional success. Especially when companies are downsizing and people are finding it extremely hard to land into their next big opportunity.

I would highly recommend getting out of your home and start meeting people. There is no point in sitting in front of the computer and send emails back and forth to job boards and recruiters thinking that the phone is going to ring some time soon. It’s not going to happen.

You need to prepare your 30 sec / 60 second elevator speech and marketing plan to get started. It doesn’t really matter whether you are a slow networker (you prefer 1 on 1) or a fast networker (networking with lot of people during an event ). If you are meeting a person 1 on 1, do your homework before you meet him. Try to know as much as you can about the person you are meeting. You can Google the person, search on LinkedIn, Xing, Twitter, Fastpitchnetowrking etc. You got to exude confidence, poise and a pleasing personality. Have a big smile on your face and give a firm handshake to the person you are meeting. If you really find something exciting about the person, talk about it first during your meeting as an icebreaker. Don’t ask for a job to the other person or tell him/her that you are looking around. This way your networking contact might feel unfriendly and he won’t show any interest in you. The whole idea is to ensure that the other person likes you and both of you feel comfortable talking to each other . Remember, people don’t really care how much you know until they realize how much your care. Ask your contact if you could help him / her in any way. Once you have developed a good rapport, then you should talk about yourself, your interests and background. Remember you got to give before you can receive.

Just before the meeting is about to end, ask your contact if he would recommend some other interesting people to pick on their brain for some counseling and advice. If you strike the right cord, your contact will definitely give you some references along with a possible e-introduction. Focus on giving a perception of high energy, friendliness and having a great sense of humor.

Never hand over your resume to your networking contact during your first interaction and also send out a thank-you email after the fact for his / her time.

You will see for yourself that by employing some of these techniques you will go a long way in developing successful and long last connections for your professional pursuits.

Last but not the least you should respect your networking contact’s time and make sure that the meeting doesn’t overstretch beyond a reasonable time.

Arun Thaploo is Director of Technologies at Cifx Consulting in Phoenix, Arizona area. He specializes in resolving Global Business and Technology Issues, Global Business Development, Process Improvements, Emerging Economies, Program Management, Call Centers etc.

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