Building your network is vital no matter where you are in your career journey. For first-time job seekers, networking can help you gain opportunities in your ideal work environments and obtain employment. Seasoned employees can get references, find assistance in moving up the ladder, secure partnerships for their company and attain job opportunities. No matter your situation, here are seven networking tips that will help you make those connections.
The best resource you have for making new connections is through events. Conferences and trade shows are great places to meet like-minded professionals with similar goals. Most everyone is there to learn, network and create more opportunities for themselves, so you might as well be the first person to make a possible connection.
It’s always nice to attend an event with a friend, but if you do, be sure to split up. Spending all your time with people you already know negates the purpose of networking. Set a goal to meet a certain number of new people at each event. Networking is like cold calling: The more you do it, the less scary it becomes. If you’re nervous about being rejected, try greeting the newcomers to the event. They’ll be eternally grateful. As you consistently meet new people, you’ll realize you no longer have that urge to retreat to the safety of your familiar faces, and you’ll find more people wanting to meet you!
Go In With Confidence
When it comes to encouraging a friend regarding their abilities, it’s easy to point out all their redeeming qualities and assets. Still, when it comes to advocating for ourselves, it can be difficult. In the same way you assess your friends’ qualities, take a minute to evaluate your wants and attributes and how they would be helpful to someone else. Then, take that knowledge and talk about your contributions in the way you would talk about someone else’s achievements. The more confident you are in your abilities, the more someone else will realize what a valuable connection you would be.
Join Professional Groups
Take part in local organizations, participate in meetups and get involved wherever and whenever you can. Once you’ve decided to join an organization, don’t just sit back and relax. Participate actively by joining a committee or taking a leadership role. By doing so, you’ll learn more, meet people and make yourself memorable.
Use Those Business Cards
One of the most popular and convenient ways to connect with your new contacts in the future is to exchange information through business cards. If you don’t already, get some business cards made that detail your basic information. At a minimum, business cards should include your name, position, company, email and/or telephone number. Bring more business cards than you believe you’ll need, and make sure to get the other person’s card as well.
Show that you are genuinely interested in what your contacts have to say. Ask open-ended questions and absorb the information they share. Then, try to keep note of the important aspects of the conversation. Like any other affiliation, people value a relationship in which the other person not only engages in both sides of the conversation but demonstrates an effort to remember the details and importance of their interaction.
You can meet as many people as you’d like, but if you never utilize their contact information, you may lose your connection. Within 48 hours of meeting an individual, send them a follow-up email reminding them of who you are—reference specifics about what you discussed at the event. If you mentioned meeting for lunch, follow up with a specific invitation; if you suggested talking by phone, set a time for the call. Acting within 48 hours helps cement you in the other person’s mind and starts building the relationship.
Integrate Online and Offline
Incorporate your real-world networking contacts into your social networking efforts. When you meet someone at an event, follow up with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn or another social media site. Similarly, meeting up with your online contacts offline can be a great way to take those relationships to the next level. Try organizing a meetup of one of your most useful online networking groups.
Give As Much as You Get
As you continue to grow your network, share your knowledge and expertise with others. Become part of their networks and offer to help or connect people when you see an opportunity. Just as you and a friend continually support each other, be there to support the meaningful business associations in your life.
Plan for the Long-Term
Although making a connection and exchanging contact information is a solid start, concentrate on forming long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. You may not need a connection today, but someday you might.
Sources: U.S. Small Business Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs