There’s no denying the power a strong professional network can have over your career success. Networking will help you develop and improve your skill set and stay on top of the latest trends in your industry and job market.
Networking also helps you to advance your career and gives you access to more job opportunities. Expanding your contacts can open doors to new opportunities for business, career advancement, and personal growth. Exchanging information, advice, and support on challenges, experiences, and goals is a key benefit of networking because it allows you to gain new insights that you may not have otherwise thought of. Discussing common challenges and opportunities opens the door to valuable suggestions and guidance. By continually putting yourself out there and meeting new people, you’re effectively stepping outside your comfort zone and building invaluable social skills and self-confidence that you can take with you anywhere.
The more you network, the more you’ll grow and learn how to make lasting connections. As long as you have a strong network of professional connections, you can be confident that someone within your sphere will be able to answer even your toughest questions. And, if there’s no definitive answer, you’ll have a solid sounding board to bounce ideas off and put into action step-by-step plans to tackle bigger problems.
How to become effective at networking
The importance of networking is obvious. But how can you improve your networking skills to ensure you’re networking effectively? These networking tips will help. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to networking. Different people are successful using different networking tactics. For instance, if you’re an introvert, you may prefer to network one-on-one over coffee or to attend smaller events rather than bigger ones. Let’s take a look at some different strategies for networking.
1. Look for the right people
Your career network should include anyone who can help you grow professionally. It can include past and present co-workers, bosses, friends with similar interests, colleagues from business associations, alumni from your university, or acquaintances you have met via online networking services. Reach out to the people who can provide you with the specific help you need. If you are interested in working in a different field, connect with friends or family members who work in that industry. You never know who might be able to help you at a later date, so make sure to connect with people working in a variety of industries and positions.
2. Be proactive
Cultivating your network year-round is crucial to maintaining beneficial connections. Don’t just contact those who can help when you have just been laid off from your job or decide you want to look for a new position. Maintain relationships with your extended network at all times, even just by sending a short email to say hello. The better your relationships are with your contacts, the more inclined they will be to lend a hand and help you when you are in need. People are more willing to help when they know who you are.
3. Keep track of your network
Keep track of your personal career network somewhere. Whether it’s electronically or on paper, make sure you know who is who, where they work, and how to get in touch. It is important to keep track of what the different contacts in your network can offer you or how you can help them. You will need to remember which of your previous coworkers now works in finance or which started teaching philosophy. Equally important is to know what you have to offer as a contact. Ideally, networking should be mutually beneficial, so be sure to let your network know how you can help them. If you are willing to support your friends, they are more likely to return the favor.
4. Seek out networking events
Networking in person works. Attending company mixers, corporate retreats or community events will expose you to a variety of important contacts. Most likely, others at the events will also be networking and will be happy to exchange business cards or contact information. You’ll find that many of the participants have the same goals you do and will be glad to exchange business cards. There are many different types of networking events you can attend that happen year round, both in person and virtually.
5. Network online
Especially in today’s world, it can be difficult to network in person, but technology has made networking online easy. The internet is a valuable resource for creating, cultivating and communicating with your contacts. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook can help you get in touch with others at specific companies, with fellow college alumni or in a certain geographic area. Sending a friend request or a brief message to a new contact may help them remember you and encourage them to seek out a mutual relationship. Always make sure your online profile is up-to-date because even recruiters use professional networking platforms and some social media channels to examine skills and experience. If you don’t have an online profile, start building one as soon as possible, because it will benefit you in the future.
These tips will help to make your networking successful. Remember, networking aims to build relationships and networks. A good, reliable network can bring in new clients, potential partners, business and career opportunities, and seasoned mentors. It’s never too early — or too late — to invest in your network. The best way to improve your networking skills is to put yourself out there and give it a try.
Take the time to find the right type of networking strategy for you and focus on making it a great experience. Having trouble deciding what works best for you while networking? Check out our blog to learn more about professional development.