According to the Balance Careers, 61% of professionals agree that a regular interaction with their professional network can lead to new career opportunities. It is no wonder that networking has become an essential skill for building a career. Not only can networking take your career to the next level, but it can also build trust and valuable business relationships along the way.
The first rule of networking is to build genuine relationships. Rather than focusing on getting something from the other person, you need to get to know them. It all starts with a phone call or email. If you have a contact in common, ask them to introduce you. Once you get acquainted, invite the person to lunch or coffee and get to know them better. Get to know their projects and take a real interest in their work.
The second rule is to help other people in your network when you are in a position to do so. The relationship is a two-way street. It is okay to ask for help, but it is more important that you reciprocate when you can. If you see a job posting, send it to a contact who may be job hunting.
Make sure to stay in touch with your contacts. There is nothing worse than people who leverage their business contacts but then never talk to them again. Reach out to your contacts every so often and stay in touch, checking in on their projects and life.
Attend a variety of different events. Of course, you should attend industry related events, but you should also expand your reach by going to events and conferences that will allow you to meet different people. Networking is not just about having relationships with people in your industry, it is also about being able to connect with others outside of your industry. An important tip when attending such events: bring business cards! You will find many attendees exchange business cards during the event.
Introduce yourself! Be prepared to talk to strangers. In a networking event, you will know some people, as most of attendees will be in your industry, but there will always be new looking to network. If you are shy, a good tip for talking to strangers is to look approachable and smile. It’s as simple as introducing yourself and asking a couple of questions until you find a common topic to talk about. Talking to strangers can be intimidating, but keep in mind that everyone is human, and no one is perfect. Ultimately, you fear rejection, but remember that you and everyone else is at the event for the sole purpose of meeting new people!
In the time of COVID-19 and social distancing, many events have been cancelled and more people are staying home. One great alternative some professionals are practicing is engaging in more one-on-one interactions with their peers. Many are using Zoom meetings, calls and virtual workshops to stay in touch with their network. Remember, now more than ever, you should put your work persona aside and really interact with your contacts and get to know them. Online networking sites like LinkedIn are a great way to stay in touch with your contacts.
Networking can be difficult but being genuine is the best way to tackle this daunting activity. Practice makes perfect! The more you network and try to build connections, the easier it will get as you go on. Happy networking!