How to Network II
Networking is making connections with people. It is a very powerful tool that people use to find potential business, stay hip to industry trends, or just to meet new people. For jobseekers, networking is the key to advancing careers. In fact, some jobs are not even publicized, so the only way to find them is to network.
Many people struggle to network efficiently because they are shy, misinformed or unskilled when it comes to linking with people. In order to network successfully, you need to focus on building genuine relationships with people. You also need to maintain those connections over time.
The big misconception about networking is that people think it’s all about what they can get for themselves. Building up a network is more akin to a give-and-take type of co-existence; it’s really about what people can do for each other.
Learning how to network is just like any other skill. With the right instruction, and enough practice, anyone can use the power of connection to their advantage.
START NETWORKING WITH PEOPLE YOU KNOW (STEP 1)
It’s more accessible for most people to start building their network up by approaching acquaintances first. Not only will this help prep you for networking with strangers, but the people you know can introduce you to others that they know in their respective networks.
Alumni associations can potentially net you some leads and connections, so feel free to tap into them. It is one of the main reasons they exist, so take advantage of them. If you can.
PARTICIPATE IN NETWORKING EVENTS & GROUPS (STEP 2)
Once you’ve begun to build up a network with known associates, its time to venture out into the unknown. There are several types of groups that exist solely for networking purposes. You should seek them out and try to be involved in as many as you can.
These networking groups can be found via networking events, professional associations, industry mixers, business organizations and even social networking services.
You don’t have to limit your networking to professional environments. Networking is all about meeting people, and you can do that just about anywhere. Plus, if you attend events and activities that interest you, it will be that much easier to find common ground with those people.
If you do happen to be somewhere out of your comfort zone, steer conversations towards subjects that appeal to you to make networking simpler.
BUILD GENUINE RELATIONSHIPS AS YOU NETWORK (STEP 3)
As you begin networking with people you don’t know, it is important to approach them correctly. You have to connect on a friendly level first before you can start trying to ask for favors. Like any relationship, trust is a critical factor in securing contacts and networking successfully.
Get to know the person you want to connect with. Talk to them about everything but work at first. When you network, you basically sell yourself. And if you come off as selfish and phony, no one will bother to keep you as a contact. Present yourself realistically, but also promote your best qualities as well.
Once you’ve established that initial connection, you have to follow up and maintain it. Keep in touch by calling occasionally, sending out an email once in a while, or through social networking. This keeps your relationship relevant and helps strengthen your newfound network.
You have to reach out to keep your network abuzz. It may feel awkward at first, but the more you stay in touch, the more comfortable you will be.
DIVERSIFY YOUR NETWORK (STEP 4)
It is beneficial to have a network comprised of unique individuals. The more diverse your connections are, the more likely you will be to reach more types of people that you might have never gotten the chance to meet.
This means stepping outside of your element. Be outgoing and initiate conversations with strangers. Attend events or join groups that you normally would not associate with. Taking risks is a necessary part of diversifying your networking. Every chance you get to try something or meet someone new, you should take.
In diversifying your network, you should aim to include people from all rungs of the professional ladder. It will probably be easier to connect with fellow job-seekers or entry level employees than the big names, but you should try for a healthy mix of folks.
GIVE BACK TO YOUR NETWORK (STEP 5)
As your network begins to grow, remember to contribute to the people in it as well. This is a very important part of networking that people often neglect. If a member of your network gives but gets nothing in return, they’ll likely leave.
If you come across a business lead, or learn about a job opportunity that someone in your network can benefit from, you should share that information with them. Even something as simple as sharing a link on Facebook is enough to keep some people engaged.
Use any available resource to help out those in your network, and people will take notice, thus being more inclined to return the favor.
Technology is very useful in maintaining a network. Use it to cover as much ground as possible.
If you have a hard time holding conversations, then prepare beforehand. Think of icebreakers, topics of interest and anticipate any questions to keep things flowing smoothly.
Have some type of objective in mind as you network so you can lock in appropriate contacts.
Don’t view networking as imposing on someone, and don’t apologize for genuinely asking for help.
You should be relaxed while networking, so avoid situations that are distracting or stressful if possible.
People are social creatures by design. Just knowing that shyness is something is acquired over time may be enough motivation to break out of that box.
If you fall out of touch with someone in your network, and you want to revive that relationship, reach out to them and let it be known. But don’t ask for a favor out of nowhere.
Always keep your options open. Plan for the worst case scenario every time you meet someone professionally in you network by having something else lined up.
Never ask for a favor from someone you just met.
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