Networks serve to guide and support us in countless ways. The beauty of successful social and professional networks can actually create incredible opportunities in our lives – whether you are seeking new friends in a new community, are building your own business, expanding your professional networks and/or job searching for new professional positions and opportunities. In essence, networking is all about building relationships no matter what type of networking you are engaged in. So, consider how networking can support you in both arenas of your life – personal (social circles) and professional (job, career or business related).
1- Be authentic
Enjoy the moment of meeting someone new and be willing to show others who you are. When we are ourselves, and are sharing and talking about what we enjoy and love, we light up. We simply cannot help but to shine a little more, and that energy draws in those who we want to connect with – both personally and professionally.
2- Be curious and interested
Ask questions…always! When we are truly leaning in, asking questions, and listening to whomever we are meeting, we are engaging with them at a deeper level. This act of listening and showing interest, ultimately leads to a more meaningful and memorable conversation, and opportunities to build a more valuable connection in your network.
3- Know how to market YOU
Be open to sharing yourself and your strengths and interests. Firstly, know what your response is to “What do you do?”. “What do you do?” is a commonly asked question at both social and professional networking gatherings. Americans ask this because they are interested in what you do for work, and also are curious as to who you are as a person. Depending on your purpose at an event, and what your current situation is, be prepared to shine the light on yourself, in whatever ways you want to highlight YOU. If you are job seeking, know how to provide a 1 minute elevator or marketing pitch to describe who you are, your experience and what kind of jobs you are seeking. If you are building your business, how do you describe your business in 1-2 minutes in an engaging way. Be ready to market your best self, by practicing your introduction of yourself, so it feels natural and true to who you are.
4- Know your audience and your purpose
Do I have a professional or social focus at this particular event? Do your homework and know about the event – who is sponsoring it, what is the purpose, who is the intended audience, what are they offering, and who will be there. At a professional networking event – Am I here to meet people in my field, gain new information or practice my professional networking skills? At a social gathering – Am I here to simply be open to meeting new social connections and making new friends? Set mini goals for each event. For example, “I will meet two new professional contacts this evening who I may want to invite for coffee and an informational interview.”
5- Follow up immediately
With both social/personal and professional networking, the follow up steps we take, in a timely manner, speaks volumes for effective relationship building. Follow up within 48 hours (next day is ideal) Do so by email, and then follow up with a more personalized touch of a simple, handwritten thank you card (by snail mail!).
6- How can I serve?
Ask yourself: How can I help the person with whom I am speaking with? Networking of all kinds is a “two way street”. What can you offer up or share with this person? Every person we meet can be our teacher and our student – meaning that we can learn from and with everyone who crosses our path while also giving a gift of what we know. Pay attention to how you can help the other person.
7- Go play, have fun, and do what you enjoy
Make time to do what you love no matter what – volunteer, join classes, or groups that give you a chance to do what you enjoy. A beautiful way to build new social and potentially, professional contacts is by becoming involved in a hobby, an interest, an exploration, a volunteering opportunity or a new class. You lift yourself up in the process, and get to meet others who share your passions.
8- Keep in touch and maintain the networks you create
A common misperception about networking is that once you have met a new contact, they are automatically a part of your network. However, like any relationship, it must be developed and nurtured. This is often the most challenging and overlooked aspect of networking. Social networks – include new contacts in social group events and gatherings, helping them expand their own networks. Professional networks – Create a networking database system (excel works well) that is easy for you. Visual learners may create a network map of who you met through whom, when and what you discussed. Find ways to reach out and stay connected. Share an article or event that might be of interest. Reach out and ask for simple advice, or invite the contact to coffee from time to time to re-connect and share information.
Thank you to our contributing expert :
Rebekah Kane (firstname.lastname@example.org), spends her time between Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. She is a coach, educator, and intercultural trainer, with experience training, advising, and coaching professional adults along their career and life changing journeys. She empowers and supports women in career and life transitions, cultural adjustment and in pursuit of their personal and professional development goals and dreams.