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In 2016, LinkedIn influencer Lou Adler surveyed 3,000 people to discover how they found their most recent job. A staggering 85 percent credited networking for helping them get hired; using network connections is even considered the primary means for finding work, above applying for jobs on websites or using any other method.
Beyond employment, networking is a great way to meet potential new business partners, mentors and even mingle with locals in a new city. While entrepreneurs of all ages (including baby boomers, Generation X and millennials) probably know a thing or two about how to network, it’s safe to say that they each use a different approach that works best for their age group.
For example, a millennial might be more at home connecting via LinkedIn and growing the rapport through emails while a baby boomer might prefer having a long conversation in person at a networking event.
Since there’s no “one size fits all” approach to networking, here are a few tips that can carry you through making connections at any age. Who knows — you might find yourself realizing that what works for entrepreneurs in another generation really works for you, too!
Make it your motto to give and take
Let’s make one thing clear: you are not at a networking night just to collect everyone’s business cards for the sheer sake of having more connections. At the core, the definition of networking means connecting and interacting with others.
For millennials especially, social media sites like LinkedIn have assured us that connections made now will be with us for a very long time. Once connected, everyone will be able to get a glimpse into one another’s lives through social platforms. As time progresses, so do careers, and those connections may be in a place where they can offer advice or mentorship to those in their community.
When establishing a connection now, make sure the relationship is one in which there are equal amounts of give and take. Don’t bombard new connections with desperate job requests or demand meeting for coffee together. Instead, position yourself as a resource using your areas of expertise. For example, if you’re a writer, reach out to your connection and offer to interview him or her for the site or publication you write for. This strengthens your rapport together and makes it easier for them to reach out to you if they need something, as well.
Get smart with networking and social media
Now is the time to amplify your social presence! Connect beyond that one event by following and engaging with influencers on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, and join in relevant Twitter chats so that you can “network” with other like-minded users. Make sure that your business cards include your updated contact information and social handles. If you’re looking up a possible connection on LinkedIn and realize that you have a mutual connection in common, see if the mutual friend can make an introduction!
Be yourself — and use your manners
No matter what generation you belong to, networking means acting and behaving like a professional. A professional wouldn’t lie about his or her area of expertise, spend all night on a smartphone ignoring everyone else, or forget to follow up after meeting a potential connection.
Be yourself. Practice your elevator pitch beforehand and research the event to be better prepared for the evening, if you’re nervous about it. Wear a stylish ensemble that makes you feel confident, and smile. Be friendly and open about what you do, and give everyone your undivided attention, keeping your cell phone out of the conversation. At the end of the night, or the next morning, follow up via email with personalized notes for each person you encountered, showing that you remember them and are excited to connect and begin building your relationship together.