Every professional should be constantly working to develop their networking skill set. The word “networking” is thrown around in almost every career-oriented workshop or classroom, but many people do not fully understand the benefits of proper networking, and struggle with determining exactly what networking entails. In my line of work, I’m constantly seeing well-networked individuals flourish, because a great network provides great opportunities. These are a few networking tips to follow whether you’re just getting into the game, or a seasoned networking vet looking for a refresher.
Practice Makes Perfect
Networking can feel very overwhelming and intimidating to some people. If you’re an introvert, the best thing to do is to practice. Find a few networking groups and start making contacts. Dr. Ivan Misner, Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Business Network International, says that you should create four different networks of people:
- Casual Contacts: The individuals you meet by attending mixers and general networking events.
- Strong Contacts: Business professionals you interact with at industry specific events and groups. (Depending on your industry, you may be able to find groups that gather frequently with the specific goal of creating strong business relationships.)
- Knowledge Contacts: People you meet through professional associations.
- Online Contacts: Casual contacts that you connect with online. (We are in the age of the internet, and your online presence can be the key to your next big career move. Linkedin is currently the most effective online networking site available. )
Network Before You Need To
If you’re just getting out of school, be sure to keep in contact with professors, classmates, family friends, etc so that you have a network of people to turn to during the first job hunt. If you’re thinking about changing jobs or industries, start attending events and bulking up your network before you feel like you MUST leave. The one thing that “seasoned” (trustworthy) networkers shy away from are individuals who feel desperate. Try to network with people when you don’t have an alternative motive, so that your interactions come across as genuine.
Maintain Your Network
Remember that your network is made up of people. You have to make sure that you build and maintain relationships with the people you connect with. The last thing that you want to do is be the person that only reaches out when you need something.
One great way to maintain your network is to set up a calendar of birthdays and special occasions. Sending a quick text or email on those days will make you stand out as genuine and engaged. Outside of the special occasions, make sure to send thank you notes, set up coffee dates, or send over articles you think might be of interest.