Whether you are shy, outgoing, male, female, immature or experienced, making connections with other people is a critical career tool in today’s business environment. Networking aids in the finding of opportunities for business development, job prospects, candidates, and personal development. People turn to the people they know to give and receive advice, connections, you name it. The key is to realize that networking doesn’t have to be a burdensome task. Instead, we’ll offer a few tips to integrate networking skills into your everyday life and advice on how to build your various networks over the length of your career.
Everyone approaches the idea of building a network differently. We suggest that if you approach the task strategically, you’ll progress. Following are some tips.
When you are at an event, social, business, family, etc…, make a connection.
- Find at least one person with whom you have something in common or who peaks your interest.
- Be sure to introduce yourself, learn more about that other person and exchange contact information.
- Then follow-up with that person within 24-48 hours later, either by telephone or email. You can simply say “it was a pleasure meeting you and I look forward to speaking again soon.”
As you build various networks, such as one for business and one for personal (e.g. working moms), reach out periodically by sending a relevant article or setting up a time to meet for a meal.
Utilize social networking/media avenues to your advantage. Sites like LinkedIn and Plaxo are excellent ways to make sure you have current contact information from people you meet throughout your journeys. And for a more personal touch, sites such as Facebook and MySpace allow you to see and show more of what goes in your life outside of work. One warning is to use social networking as one piece of your networking strategy because a computer cannot substitute the face to face impressions and connections that could last you a lifetime.
There are numerous benefits associated with building your networks. These include:
- Personal Development – You will have people to turn to for advice and inspiration. Furthermore, you might find a special mentor who will become instrumental in aiding in your personal and professional growth. Some hobbies and activities outside of work will require creative ideas or help from other people. This network could also provide you with the opportunity to assist others with decisions or become a mentor.
- Job Prospects – Finding a job or at least an interview through a personal contact happens to people every day. Have you ever thought about why many companies a referral bonus to employees who recommend a successful hire? One reason is because most people wouldn’t advocate for a person who they know would not be a good fit for the company.
- Business development or client prospects – Networking helps to expand your sphere of connections. And inevitably, if you are out there meeting people in your community, new business will come your way because people know you and will think of your organization first.
If you do anything outside of your home, you have a network. Be certain to recognize your network(s), use it/them regularly and nurture this extremely valuable resource as often as possible!