When you think of networking, you may picture a bunch of professionals in suits passing around business cards while they nibble on finger foods and sip champagne. But networking is something that can happen at any time, any place, and anywhere. It can happen during a trip to a grocery store, at your kids’ soccer game, or while standing in line at the DMV. No matter where you network, the contacts you create could help boost your career.
What Does it Mean to Network?
The technical term for networking is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” To break it down, it means making a connection/mentorship with a person or a group of people who can benefit from one another’s insight into business.
If you just graduated from beauty school, you probably don’t think you have much to offer someone who has successfully run a business for years. Believe it or not, people are just as interested in learning from you as you are from them.
Let’s talk about 5 easy steps on how to prepare ourselves to network:
STEP #1: BUSINESS CARDS
It may seem redundant or old fashioned to have business cards, but believe it or not, they are one of the best ways to increase name recognition, share your contact info, and show off your profession and business to others. The best part is they can be personalized to help the other person remember your interaction. When it comes to designing your cards, you don't have to stick with rectangular cards either.
Keep the design consistent with your brand, as these are the cards you will hand out to professionals you want to connect with. When first looking for a job, you may want to consider ordering cards with just your name, social media handles, email, and phone number. Everyone you meet will remember you because of your unique cards and you’ll be able to use these for years, regardless of your job, because they’re branded for you, not a business.
STEP #2: ALWAYS KEEP A HANDFUL OF CARDS ON YOU
Keep at least ten in your wallet or bag. Every time you go out, whether it's to a bar, gym, restaurant, or coffee shop, have a few on you. You never know who you're going to meet. Try this: Start up a conversation at a restaurant with your server and broach the subject of what you do. Then leave a business card along with the tip.
STEP #3: MAKE IT PERSONAL
Let's say you have an amazing 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 vacation. Write, "Hope you have a great trip!” and sign your name on the card. Because you're in this industry, you know people respond to people; putting your handwriting on your card and making notes about your conversation will make the recipient remember you and be more willing to get together and discuss business in the future. It’s also a good idea to make notes on the back of their business card to help you remember the conversation you had.
STEP #4: KNOW YOURSELF
This step might seem strange: How can you not know yourself? What this means is know your goals, your skills, 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 teach you. This allows you to go into conversations already thinking about the potential mutual benefits. For example, you may be amazing at hair cutting but need some additional skills in color melting or foil placement. Knowing your strengths and your weaknesses will help navigate you toward someone you can talk to about areas you need help with. Striking up a conversation with someone at a trade show who is at a color line booth will start that conversation and connection.
STEP #5: DO YOUR HOMEWORK
If you're preparing to go to an event or a place in which you'll have an opportunity to make connections (a trade show, salon or spa, an open house, or even an online class), research some of the people who might attend. Maybe there's a colorist you follow on Instagram who’s going to have a booth at a trade show. You love their color melt technique and really wish you knew how to create the same effect on your clients. Make it your plan to introduce yourself and specifically mention your admiration for their technique. Chat for a bit and end the conversation by asking if you could have their contact information in case you run into issues down the line. They'll likely agree, and you can exchange information. If you happen to be attending an online course, you can IM someone and introduce yourself. By going into a networking event with a game plan, you're preparing yourself not only to meet people, but to also create lasting connections that can help boost your career.
In summary, networking can happen anywhere! It can help boost confidence, communication, business, and connections. You can learn from others just as much as they can learn from you—at any point in your career. Networking is like dating; sometimes you must make the first move in order to connect with someone. Ask yourself these questions to help get you started.
- When was the last time I networked?
- Do I have business cards I am confident will represent myself and what I stand for?
- Do I have the tools needed to market myself and network?
- What opportunities can I take advantage of to make connections?
AHP is here to help you grow and expand your business. Whether you’re an independent contractor, a booth renter, or an employee at a large hair salon, marketing is important. Creating a solid marketing plan with the proper materials not only helps you gain new clients but also helps you keep the ones you have so you can continue to build a business that compensates you for your talent.
Associated Hair Professionals (AHP) have access to Marketing Toolkits within our Business and Marketing section and include:
- Appointment Reminder Cards
- Gift Certificates
- Loyalty Rewards Cards
- Referral Cards
- Social Media Cover Photos