You’ve heard that knowing the right people can help you get ahead in life, but you’re not sure how to network effectively. Don’t worry. We’ll share tips and tricks you can use at your next networking event. That way, you can cultivate a strong circle of professionals committed to supporting your career or business.
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What Is Networking?
Networking is the strategic process of initiating, developing, and nurturing relationships with other professionals or entrepreneurs. It involves meeting new people, finding common ground, and continuing the dialogue beyond the initial interaction.
The relationships you form should be mutually beneficial, and you should enter into them with an open mind. Networking is a long game, and you never know when someone you meet will be able to help you — or when you’ll be able to help them. But, when you approach networking with patience and generosity, you lay the foundation for your future success.
Your network determines your level of success - your ability to find a better job, pivot careers or find clients. The bigger and stronger your online network is, the more likely you are to be successful in whatever endeavor you choose - and the more resilient you become to any change that presents itself.
Why Should You Network?
There are many ways networking can benefit your career or your business. You could walk away with:
- Exposure to different perspectives and new information
- Collaboration opportunities
- Introductions to hiring managers, prospective clients, potential business partners, or reputable suppliers
- Job offers, freelance contracts, or business deals
- Opportunities to help someone you admire or support a cause you believe in
Plus, humans are social creatures. Networking fulfills an inherent need to meet and connect with others.
4 Tips For Networking On The Internet
The internet has made it easy to network with people worldwide, and social media platforms help you initiate and strengthen relationships with just a few clicks. Here are a few best practices you should follow:
Audit Your Social Media Profiles
If your social media profiles are incomplete, unclear, or boring, revamp them! Add a professional photo, fill in all fields, include your contact information, and write compelling, keyword-rich copy about what you do. That way, potential contacts can find you quickly and will be more likely to reach out.
Related Reading: How To Create A Great LinkedIn Profile
Lead With Value
You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and ask them to hire you, introduce you to their company’s CEO, or buy your latest product, would you? Of course not. It’s rude and completely ineffective - both offline and on social media.
You can start a new networking relationship on the right foot by providing value instead of making a request. Try offering a sincere compliment, making a helpful introduction, or giving a gift with no strings attached. The other person will be pleasantly surprised and more apt to help you later.
As Mike Gardon puts it, “relationships are lines, not dots. They are not about you, and they must be mutually beneficial.”
Ways to Give Value To Someone You Don’t Know
- A relevant, specific compliment: Reach out and tell the person something they’ve done that you specifically enjoy. If you liked a specific LinkedIn post, project, podcast or article, tell them why you liked it, and what impact it had on you. Bonus: Give them a soft “out” i.e. “No need to reply, just wanted to share how it impacted me”.
- Show your support and tag them so they know: You could write a post about the person, share their content in your newsletter, or figure out what they care about and support that.
- Engage with a person’s content on LinkedIn: Reply and share, meaningfully.
- Introduce them to a meaningful connection: The most powerful way to build a relationship is to connect two people who can help one another.
Commit To Following Up
Networking without following up is just socializing. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with socializing. But, if you want to develop your circle with the ultimate goal of career or business growth, you need to do more than just hang out at a networking event.
You must follow up with each person you meet to keep the conversation going. Send them a note shortly after your initial meeting telling them how much you enjoyed connecting, offering your assistance, and encouraging another discussion soon. Then, set calendar reminders to help you remember to reconnect every few months.
Remember: You network to forge relationships, not complete transactions. Therefore, for best results, you should aim to be a consistent and positive presence for each of your connections.
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Connect with others who are looking to change the way they think about work! Connecting with other like-minded individuals can help you practice networking and grow your network.
4 Tips For Networking In Person
While networking online should be a priority, there’s something magical about networking in person. You get to know others on a deeper level on a quicker timetable. And, hearing someone laugh is a lot more satisfying than reading “LOL” in a direct message! So, here are a few things to keep in mind when you network face-to-face:
Make It A Habit
You can’t attend one networking event every year or two and expect stellar results. Instead, the most well-connected people network constantly. While that may not be possible for you, you should still strive to meet new people monthly or quarterly. Plus, the more you network, the better you’ll get at doing it!
Expand Your Reach
When you hang out with the same people in the same places all of the time, your network will stagnate. You can freshen things up and expand your reach by adding new networking events to your rotation. Not sure where to find them? Contact your local Chamber of Commerce, check with your industry’s professional association(s), or run a quick search online.
Practice Good Business Etiquette
You don’t have to be super formal or uptight when you network, but you should follow some widely-accepted conventions of business etiquette. For example, in the United States, it’s customary to shake hands when you meet someone and maintain eye contact with them while speaking. However, if your business takes you out of the country, it’s a smart idea to research the networking norms of your destination.
Stand Out (In A Good Way)
You’ll meet many new people at each networking event (and so will everyone else!), so you need to make yourself memorable. For example, consider creating custom business cards that stand out in a stack. You could also perfect your elevator pitch and deliver it with confidence.
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What To Avoid While Networking
We’ve covered several ways to be a better networker, but here’s what you should avoid doing:
- Skimping on social media profile content
- Leaving your business cards at home
- Letting shyness prevent you from connecting with others
- Talking more than listening
- Appearing disinterested when the other person is speaking
- Asking for a favor early on in the relationship
- Forgetting about your connections/failing to follow up
- Relying on one event to fill your circle
- Thinking of networking as an occasional activity
Remember: The worst thing you can do is NOT network. You can improve your networking skills with study and practice, but you need to get started!
The Bottom Line
Cultivating new professional relationships can feel daunting — especially if you’re an introvert. But, after reading this article, you should have a better sense of how to network. If you’re looking for a new job, we encourage you to search for your next opportunity on ZipRecruiter and check out our recommendations for the best resume writing service.