There are abundant resources for learning how to network, and one I found very helpful was a video called 3 Keys to Networking Success by the Evolve Business Group, presented by Marty Park. This video about networking success highlights three key areas to focus on when trying to improve your networking abilities. The first key is understanding that the networking conversation is not about you initially. The focus of the conversation should be primarily on the other person.
The second key is to be able to ask questions and keep a conversation flowing. A boring conversation will drive a potential client or employer away quickly and may lose you the chance to speak with them again. Questions can drive conversations by keeping the topics light and friendly, and can also drive a business conversation, as everyone is happy to share the successes of their business. Marty Park suggests having 5-10 questions ready to ask in the beginning of the conversation, and he also suggests practicing asking other questions in the context of a conversation. The experience of coming up with questions on the spot with no pressure will be invaluable in a true networking situation.
The third key is to focus on the information exchanged and making sure you receive the information you want or need. Park says to make sure that you leave with a business card or some sort of other information from the person. With a business card in hand, you control the communication after the original conversation. When at a networking event, Park says it is much more important to focus on the number of business cards you receive than the number you hand out, as each one you receive helps you become the original secondary contact.
Networking is a skill that you will need in any line of work. So take your cues from Marty Park's "how to" video. Practice asking questions in conversations making sure to focus on the other person. Keep the conversation flowing, and focus on what you know and what you wish to know.
You can view the Marty Park video by clicking here.