Effective networking can be an important tool in many ways, including giving your career a boost. Many employment opportunities are never published, but are filled by someone who knows someone who knows someone else. It’s important to put yourself in that social chain.
With all the social media channels available, it is now easier than ever to cultivate a large network. But what are your networking goals? How will your network help you and what value do you bring to your network? Can your social media networks provide you with the value you are looking for?
Most of us would probably agree that social media networks are important, but so is face to face networking. And depending on what field you are in, face to face networking may be vital.
We often start networking seriously when we are planning a career change or some other transition, and then once we have what we want, we stop networking. Why do we do this? We should see networking as an on-going and important personal and professional tactic that doesn’t stop.
We should commit to continual networking and making new contacts and this should show up in your calendar. Here are some tips:
Examine your current resources. You already know someone who is well-connected. Think about all of your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. Consider your entire social network. Maybe you’re a member of a church, a fraternity, or a local women’s group. Are you leveraging those contacts effectively?
The key to effective networking is consistency and persistence. A little each day or each week, is more effective than a monumental effort every once in a while. You need to be consistent in your efforts if you want to see big results. Set aside time to reach out to people each week.
Join relevant local and national organizations. Whether you’re a chemist, firefighter, school teacher, or plumber, there are organizations catering to your needs and interests. Become a part of them. In many cases, your employer will pay membership dues. Do some research and see what you can find.
Use social media. LinkedIn and Facebook can be great for networking. Use social media and make your presence known. Make contact with a few people regularly via social media platforms. Try to add value with your posts and comments. And if any of your social media contacts are from the same area, think about reaching out to meet in person.
Be proactive. You can’t simply stand in a crowd at a networking event and expect people to line up to talk to you. The burden is on you to start conversations. Take the bull by the horns, and mingle. You’ll get much better with practice. (Check out our blog post on mastering the art of small talk)
Use good communication skills. Learn to ask open-ended questions. It’s hard to maintain a conversation by asking questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Ask questions that require a detailed answer..
Follow up religiously. Communicating with someone only once won’t help you. Reach out to the most promising contacts you’ve made and touch base. Stay in contact.
You can’t expect to receive more effort and value than you give. You truly receive what you give when it comes to networking. You won’t get much, if you don’t give much. Make a real effort to help others.
Focus on quality over quantity. Passing out your business card like you’re handing out car wash coupons won’t do you much good. Everyone will know what you’re doing. Make an effort to make a few real connections rather than throwing a 100 darts at the wall. Quality counts.
Connect others. This is especially powerful. Bring people together. This is especially easy to do, and can pay off down the road for your own career.
Avoid selling or asking for anything. If every time you reach out to someone you try to sell them something, they will quickly tire of you. Rather, give them something. “I know you’re interested in the effect of the Trans Pacific Partnership on the trade deficit. Here’s an article I thought you might be interested in.”
Networking is an effective way to build relationships, perhaps even with potential employers. You will also get to know people who can give you referrals. Ensure you do all you can for your network. The more value you provide, the more you will receive in return.