f you want to make any kind of progression in your career, networking will always help you out. However, networking isn’t as simple as meeting new people and exchanging information. You need to build a relationship, and this, especially in the unfamiliar professional sphere, can be challenging as well as intimidating.
This article covers:
- What is networking
- Tips on how to network
What Is Networking?
Networking is a deliberate attempt to build and maintain professional relationships that can be later used to further your professional goals. Networking does not simply involve swapping information and calling them when you need help. You need to focus on building a relationship of trust. How can you build this trust? Demonstrating your responsibility and understanding for the business is a good start to beginning a close relationship that can help your career later on.
You can start networking with the intention of gaining information about your field of business, or to gain trust from others in your field. You may also be in it to have a good time being social and well-known. Networking can also function as self-promotion, helping to get your name out there and let everyone know who you are and what you do.
Benefits of Networking
Networking, when done right, can help you land a new job or a better salary. It also gives you a better insight into a career path or field of business. Networking can help you get into social events that are in and out of your professional sphere. You may be getting offers to be a speaker or trainer.
Networkers have unique advantages. They have access to private information, diverse skill sets, and power. Maintaining a diverse network, connecting you to many individuals of various expertise, allows for a more enriched resource to access later.
Tips on How to Network Effectively
Your next question may be, how do I start networking? If you’re not sure how to build a professional relationship, and how to maintain it, these guiding points should help you get started. You may also not be sure how to take advantage of your networking. There’s an effective approach to networking, and reading further will let you in on the secret.
Who to Network With
If someone were to ask you who were the 20 most critical individuals to your career are, would you be able to do it? These top 20 people have helped you secure jobs, have been your bosses and co-workers and acquaintances who helped you at some point in your career. These are the relationships you need to put most of your focus into. You do this by keeping regular contact, engaging with them at least three times a year. Know them at a deeper level than simply their position, and follow up on their interests.
Can you identify the next tier of relationships you have? This group of people may have helped you in your career or have the potential to. You should still follow up with these people, but you don’t have to do so with the same intensity you do with your top 20.
In the end, you don’t know who will take a step up in their career and become an influencer. It’s difficult to start a strong relationship with a 60-year-old executive who is already well-established in your field of business. Meet people who interest you and who you think will get far and make a strong connection with them. They may gain a position that can help your career in the future, and at the very least you’ll have an interesting and perhaps eye-opening relationship.
Engage With Others
Keeping enough contact that you aren’t forgotten is often the most difficult step for new networkers. You should be keeping constant-ish communication, but how do you do that without being over-bearing? This is where it helps to know their interests. If you are both interested in a particular issue, either involving your field of business or not, send them links to articles concerning that subject that they may find interesting. This type of communication is casual and will not strike them as random and abrupt. It can also help you start a conversation. They may immediately respond to the article, or you can bring it up next time you see them.
If you know they are working through a problem (again either personal or work-related), offer advice and help. If they refuse your help don’t push it, but your offer of help should be enough to show you care about the relationship and are trying to maintain it. If they accept your help, great! Give them the best support you can, and your relationship has definitely taken a step into being well-established.
You can also use social media to stay in touch. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever platform you share to keep up the connection. Get creative with you how you keep in touch. Send out a monthly newsletter or your holiday cards. Invite them to social events if you feel comfortable doing that. A networker can’t have relationships that are superficial.
Making a Genuine Relationship
Sometimes networking turns into a deeper connection, into something you may know as friendship. This is perhaps better than the casual relationship. But no matter how close you become with the other, the relationship will only really work if it’s genuine. Base the relationship not off of wanting to get something from it. Practice active listening and invite them to a drink or a cup of coffee. Share your interests and goals, and show notice in theirs.
Put Yourself Out There
If you’re not sure how you’re supposed to be meeting these new people, you need to do some research and find events near you that you can attend. Social events are made for you to interact and engage with others, and hopefully make some lasting impressions. Depending on the event you attend, you may have an easier time meeting people with similar interests and goals. To boost your credibility, you can also try being a speaker at one of these events. Share your expertise!
You don’t have to attend events that only fall in your field of interest. Broaden your experience and attend events where you can meet others in different industries. Go to events you wouldn’t normally think of attending, and you may find yourself establishing relationships that are interesting and different. This is how you gain new insights.
Try to Be the Unexpected
It can be difficult to start a connection, especially if you’re trying to build that relationship with a very busy person. The best way to get their attention is to be a bit unexpected. This trick also works for submitting a resume and cover letter. Make yourself stand out. Say something interesting in conversation; wear a conversation-starter piece of jewelry; hand in your application to a job with a box of doughnuts. Be creative and unique, and you may just catch the eyes of enough people to have an extensive and diverse network.
Don’t Ask From a Stranger
You won’t come off well if you ask for something from someone who haven’t invested in. Proper networking requires a relationship based on trust and courtesy. If you haven’t put the effort into keeping in contact, you can’t really ask for a favor or help with your career. You especially won’t do well if you haven’t done anything to help them, or haven’t offered to help with something. Networking works best when you show you care about the individual and your shared relationship. Asking without giving is not demonstrative of a healthy relationship.
Always offer before you ask. Be generous. However, don’t act simply for your own benefit; simply so you can ask for something later. It helps to genuinely care about your relationships and want to help out. If you demonstrate your willingness to help others, you’re sure to get help when you need it.
One networks for the benefit of their career, but it should also be more than that. It’s about learning more about others and their expertise, and building a network of support. To help and receive help, that’s what networking does. Don’t force or rush a relationship, and don’t go into it with the sole intention of taking advantage. Networking is a balance of give and take.