Feel like you always strike out when you try to network? You go to events, you talk to people and hand out your card, you even follow up! And then—nada.
Turns out, your approach may be a little too selfish to be effective. Before you get offended, hear me out. Jeff Archibald explains in a blog post:
I give them my card. I follow up with them. I remind them that if they have work, contact me. There’s a lot of “I” and “me” in that statement above. Where’s the benefit to the person you’re meeting? Unless they have an immediate, unmet need for the services you provide—which is a long shot—there is likely little benefit to their connection with you.
Many people enter a networking event with this inherent idea of furthering their goals—but Archibald suggests that a better way is to go in asking yourself how you can help people. What this looks like in practice is focusing your conversations on asking more about their work than talking about yourself, and then following up with a useful article or resource based on what you talked about.
I think this could even be taken one step further: Instead of simply sending resources, send solutions. If you have marketing experience, say, and someone mentions how his business is trying to reach new audiences? Share a strategy you've found useful and offer to meet for coffee to talk about it further. You'll be showing off your skills, and your contact will be left with a very positive impression of you. The rewards to your networking will naturally follow.