No matter the industry or ambition, making connections and seeking advice from the right people almost always plays a vital role in career progression. The majority of people know the importance of networking; however, many emphasizing its importance fail to outline the importance of doing so properly and therefore successfully.
It’s important to set aside the idea that networking involves meeting someone at a party and miraculously being offered a dream job. The realities of networking bring less instant, but still long-term, benefits. At the heart of it, networking is about consciously and slowly building up a list of contacts, while being a part of a mutually supportive group.
Networking is a professional skill like any other, meaning it takes time to cultivate and perfect. Being a successful networker requires an increased understanding of human interaction, business strategy and sales-based relationships.
Jumping the First Hurdle
For those who are less than outgoing, the thought of networking is likely to set teeth on edge. This is why it is often recommended to those attending their first networking event to go with a friend. This eliminates the fear of having to enter the room alone and will provide a sense of security when making introductions.
Having the right mindset can also really benefit those just starting to network. Many are uncomfortable with the concept because they assume that at its core, networking is self-serving and self-centered. In reality, successful networking allows mutually beneficial business relationships to flourish, often involving both parties giving up time and resources to help the other.
- Join an online networking platform. Online networking sites are a uniquely useful tool, offering an unprecedented number of possible connections; for example, LinkedIn has over 575 million users. Creating connections with people online especially benefits those lacking the time for face-to-face events. For those looking for online success, remember to add a photo, since profiles with photos get 21 times more views and 36 times more messages than those without one.
- Have business cards ready. The business card is a priceless weapon in the business person’s arsenal. It acts as a reminder long after the first meeting has passed. For those working in a creative industry, it is worth spending a little extra time on custom business cards as these can be an instant indication of aesthetic flare.
- Quality is better than quantity. There is a misconception that successful networking means meeting as many people as possible: this really doesn’t have to be the case. Often having a smaller group of professional contacts frees up time to adequately invest in those relationships. This is likely to reap more beneficial personal and professional rewards, as a good reputation will carry further in a tighter circle.
- Communicate correctly. Remember the goal is to build long-lasting relationships, not simply get personal selling points across. It might seem like obvious advice, but it is often easy to forget: talk, but also listen and ask questions, never ask for help right off the bat and always keep interested parties abreast of progress. Following up a contact soon after the initial meeting not only shows a keen interest, but works to solidify the relationship.