In 2016, networking is as important as having a well-rounded resume. Some may argue that it’s even more important. ‘Who you know’ really is a huge determining factor when it comes to furthering your career, and in today’s world, most of us associate networking with LinkedIn. While the social media site is a terrific medium when it comes to networking, below are a few other ways to expand and enhance your professional network.
Combining Business and Pleasure
We’re taking it back to the basics with this networking tip. Full-on human interaction. One great (and fun) way to network is by taking up a new hobby. Attend a cooking class, take up golfing or join a book club, meeting with people who have similar interests as you in a more casual setting is the perfect ice-breaker when trying to grow your network. In social settings people will be more relaxed and more receptive when you try to strike up a conversation about your business.
Make Yourself Useful
When you are constantly making yourself a resource to others, it will make you a more valuable contact. Be the powerhouse of information. Whether that be names of people, ideas or suggestions, keeping visible to people is very important when trying to build your network.
It is important to remember that you need to be genuine when building your network. Relationships, professional or personal, are built on trust and the idea that it will be beneficial to both parties. Showing you will do everything in your power to help the other person when the time comes will help ensure he/she will do the same for you. Listening to what others have to say about their business is just as important as telling others about yours. If someone is only interested in what you can offer them, then you will know right away that their connection isn’t one you want in your network.
Set Realistic Expectations
Like with anything else, building a network takes time. When attending an event you think could potentially grow your network, go in with a plan. Don’t try to hand your business card to every person you see; this method is insincere and inefficient. Setting an attainable goal of meeting and connecting with two to four people will be more beneficial for your network growth.
Building and Maintaining Relationships
Now that your network has grown and contacts have been found, the next challenge will be to keep up with maintaining these relationships. For many, this is the hardest part. Keeping in touch on a regular basis is important to make relationships meaningful. Depending on how important the connection is, quality interactions can differ. For example, if you met someone through a professional setting, an email or (even better) a hand-written letter can go a long way to ensure the relationship is held on to. If the initial interaction was more casual, a text or phone call could be a more appropriate way to connect with someone and start to build a more professional alliance.
While sometimes ‘knowing the right people’ can be completely based on luck or fate, taking the right steps to set up a strong network will always be a valuable skillset. LinkedIn will always be a great way to connect with people, but keep in mind that networking goes much further than that. Be yourself, lend a helping hand to people in your network when you can and maintain relationships, following those simple guidelines will be sure to help next time you turn to your professional network for advice!