Why networking is important and how to do it right
Networking isn’t too difficult despite what some of us may think. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone and venturing from one social circle to the next. Eventually, you will come across people who share the same interests as you.
It’s pretty straightforward. The more you connect with people the more your network grows. And so do the perks that come along with it. When you see an opportunity to foster friendships with people from the same career path, just take a deep breath and go for it.
If you’re still not clear on what do, here’s a quick starter’s guide to get things moving.
1. Establish a rapport
Networking is essentially all about building genuine relationships with people within the industry. It makes life easier when you’re able to “click” with someone instantly without too much effort. And that’s always a great confidence booster.
You can break the ice with anything that comes to mind; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a work-related topic. Just be yourself. Make each other feel at ease by exchanging jokes, talking about hobbies or other common interests. Try to eliminate as much awkwardness as possible.
The whole point of networking goes beyond making good impressions. It’s about forming lasting friendships so you don’t end up becoming just another name on a business card.
You want the person to remember you wholeheartedly so grab every chance when it comes to mingling; whether that means a lunch invitation, a meeting over drinks or something unexpected. Like, a random encounter in an elevator.
2. Keep in touch
Keeping in touch with your contacts is a vital element of networking. Once the foundation is laid you want to retain and strengthen all those new relationships you just built. And that’s best done by maintaining active communication.
Reach out to your new friends every so often with the occasional phone call, text or e-mail. Interact with them on social media. Post on their wall, comment on their status updates or drop a quick “Hi!” in their inbox every once in a while.
Once all the formalities are out of the way you can plan more personal meets. Like a coffee date or brunch that can help create a closer bond. This will ultimately grant you more insight into the world you work in.
If you fail to keep in touch then there’s no point reading the next chapter. Your story ends right there.
3. Helping hands
Networking is basically a two-way avenue. The more you help out the more favors you’ll get back in return.
It’s like playing a co-op video game. You can’t complete certain missions without a partner providing occasional assistance to help you along the way. By the same token you want to help out when your partner is in need.
In a professional context always offer before you ask and take a genuine interest in other people’s projects.
Reach out from time to time and ask your friend if he/she needs a few helping hands; this will greatly enhance your reputation and credibility as people will start to observe a more attractive personality in you.
If you don’t have intimate knowledge in your friend’s project, provide a contact that can out help out instead. Having a contact in your pocket that can help a friend is synonymous with helping them yourself.
Words can have a powerful influence on people. Remember to thank or show gratitude in any shape or form when your friend agrees to help you.
4. Bring a wingman
Attending an event alone can be daunting when you’re in a crowded room full of new faces.
Having a buddy by your side when you’re networking will boost your confidence and help take away some of the awkwardness. Bringing a friend from a different company is even better. It’ll break the ice more quickly and will stir up more interesting topics to discuss.
Finally, a friend can help take some of the load off if you notice the conversation is becoming one-sided. Talking about yourself all night can get a little redundant. That’s when your friend enters and spins the conversation and stops you from bragging about your own agenda.
5. Mix and match
Make an effort to attend a variety of events as much as possible.
Going to summits and seminars allows you to connect with influential people on a more personal level. The more you explore the greater access you’ll get to people from other relevant fields in the industry. That’s a valuable asset to have in your arsenal.
Speaking out at different summits and seminars gives a platform to offer your thoughts and ideas to others even if it’s an event you wouldn’t normally consider attending.
Doing all this strengthens your reputation and eventually, you’ll be able to influence others to join your cause.
All in all networking is a make-or-break game, but once you’ve mastered the ropes it’s a lot less intimidating.
There is no substitute for relationship building. Think of it as a long-term investment, the more hands you shake the more benefits you’ll receive in return.
Be confident and come dressed with a smile. And as long as you have this basic toolkit the rest will come naturally.