10 Keys to Effective Networking

10 Keys to Effective Networking

Whether it's parenting, friendship, or career development, humans accomplish most things through spending time with others. Every person you meet knows something or someone you don't. Sharing our wealth of knowledge is the key to growth and success. Professionally, we network for referrals, job opportunities, business growth, and exposure. In fact, according to HubSpot, networking fills 85% of job positions.

It's vital to know how to network effectively.

Network Naturally

You shouldn't force your career network. At the end of the day, you're less likely to keep a forced and motive-driven connection. Enter each interaction with something to offer. Network with the desire to listen, learn, and help. Always try to giver more than you get.

If you're an introvert, take it slow. Start by interacting with a few people and natural introductions will follow (with a comfortable mutual buffer). You'll grow your network and reach wider social or industry circles. If you're an extrovert, don't exhaust yourself befriending everyone you meet. It isn't about how many contacts you make but the quality of the interactions.

Be Prepared

When you're networking, you must know what you have to offer. Become familiar with your strengths, skills, and connections. Have a personal sales pitch that you've practiced. You can always have your resume or business cards handy. To really expand your network, you'll need to interact in various social circles, organizations, and volunteering positions.

If you are actively networking, maintain a schedule to avoid clashes and cancelations. The last thing you want is to disappoint a potential strong network connection by wasting their time. Keep a journal to record your interactions, contact information, and what you gained/gave. If it's becoming overwhelming, take a break to recharge your social battery.

Ask Questions & Listen to Responses

Networking is strongest when you know the person you're interacting with. That isn't limited to the information you can find online. Ask questions and listen to responses.

Don't just enter a conversation with the standard polite questions. Work on open-ended questions to avoid the conversation coming to a grinding halt once you've learned each other's names and job titles. Find questions within answers. Nobody gives up all their details in the initial interaction period. Demonstrate that you want to listen to their story without needing to offer your own.

Listening well is the most important networking skill.

Once you've had them talking about themselves for a while, work in personal facts that relate to the conversation. Give them the question baton. Let them learn about you and offer open-ended responses to leave room for follow-up questions.

Ask for Advice

Don't be afraid to ask for help. We all need support occasionally. Asking for advice shows people that you value their opinion and can trust their guidance. It helps if you outright make them aware that you aren't asking for a job. Be honest about what you're looking for and explain that you need a push in the right direction. You may be surprised how freely people offer up their own networks and knowledge of opportunities.

Be Present Online

Online connections can be as valuable as in-person. People are busy and don't always have time for networking events. Even if they do attend events, identifying someone from an online platform makes for more comfortable introductions.

Make sure your online presence is a positive representation of you. Employers may do background checks. LinkedIn and Twitter are both professional enough settings to interact with others in your industry of interest. If you're interested in knowing someone, you can interact with their activity on social media and ease into familiarity.

Do Your Research

If you know you're meeting up with someone that could be a strong network, come prepared. Research their personal and work background with a simple Google search. See what they've recently posted about on social media.

If socializing doesn't come easily to you, prepare some questions. When the conversation becomes stagnant, you can mention something relevant to their interests or work. This demonstrates intelligence and mutual interests which can encourage the other person to talk more freely.

Nurture Relationships

You are not networking to get a job. A solid network is necessary for all walks of life and at any stage of your career. Ensure you get contact details and send a follow-up hello after your meeting. Personalize the message by reminding them (and yourself) how and where you met as you tell them how lovely it was to meet them.

Don't toss someone aside once you've landed a job or become comfortable. As you never know when you'll need someone's help, nurture your career network with simple check-ins and occasional coffee dates.

Be Selfless

Networking is a two-way street. Don't just assume that because you're looking for work or a connection that the other person isn't seeking help, too. Remember, you are not networking to get a job.

Offer advice and introduce others to your own network. Demonstrate that you are willing to give your time and energy to someone else before you even ask for their help. Being selfless will make it easier for others to trust you.

Think Outside the Box

Tap into your imagination when networking. Make connections between aspects of your life and the person you're interacting with in less obvious ways. For example, someone in a fitness social group could also be interested in healthy eating, adventure travel, charity runs, or fitness fashion.

This is particularly important to consider if you're selling a brand. Draw a web of related industries or interests and expand your networking opportunities.

Everyone is a Connection

Never dismiss someone as an unworthy network. You have no idea who or what others know. Your daily barista may have hospitality opportunities. Their partner might be a professional in your industry of choice. Their parents could own a business you'd like to collaborate with.

Don't rule anyone out when networking. Make sure you're always kind and treat everyone equally so that you are memorable.

Written by Career Specialist Jan 13, 2023
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