Professional networking is essential in building a business or finding a job. You can have the skills and the education, but without strong personal connections, it can be very difficult to grow in your career.
A lot of people have trouble with networking because they may be introverted or worry they are asking too much of people.
Here are seven tips that can help you strengthen your networking skills.
1. Focus on the right people.
The secret to networking isn't necessarily attending a networking event and passing out as many business cards as you can. It's not meeting as many people as possible in hopes something will work out. Instead, try to concentrate on the people who you know will be able to make a difference in your career. Also, focus on learning their names.
2. Create win/win situations.
It's important that both you and the other party gain something when networking. If you benefit more than the other person, he or she might feel the relationship is not worth their time. The goal is to build a long-term relationship that's positive and professional for both people.
3. Give and receive.
In networking situations, people expect you to ask them for help. If you turn that around and also offer support, your networking partner will likely be grateful and want to return the favor again and again.
4. Become a connector.
You don't always have to gain something concrete in a networking relationship. If you can introduce people who can benefit from one another, it can be effective and meaningful. You can build a stronger rapport with multiple people, and you never know where it might lead.
5. Remember to reconnect.
Many of us have people contact us out of the blue after years of never touching base. When that happens, you may not want to go out of your way for them because they haven't put any effort into sustaining a relationship. After you choose the right people to network with, remember to stay in contact with them. People often appreciate follow-ups and quick check-ins more than you realize.
6. Use social networks.
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are tools that you can use to connect in a personal way to different people in your industry. On LinkedIn, for example, you can get introduced to new contacts through your current connections. You can also use LinkedIn as a professional database to find new people who work in your industry.
7. Start your own networking group.
One of the best ways to meet like-minded people is to establish your own networking group. You can use Meetup.com and EventBrite.com to create a series of events under a certain topic such as marketing, finance, or accounting. You can also become more connected by leading a group.
It's important that both you and the other party gain something when networking. If you benefit more than the other person, he or she might feel the relationship is not worth their time.
FAQ: How to Build Your Network
1. How does professional networking help?
Professional networking can help you strengthen business connections. It can lead to an exchange of ideas, plus serve as a way to create long-term relationships with people who can help you to make your next career move.
2. Is networking in business good?
Yes. Networking in business is good because it can open the door for new opportunities that wouldn’t be as attainable on your own. Professional networking can help you to build your career, learn new strategies, and form valuable connections with others.
3. How can I build a professional network?
To build a professional network, start by setting networking goals. Then start putting yourself out there. Reach out to current connections, join local and national networking or industry-related organizations, attend events, and connect with others on social media.
Focus on adding value, rather than getting something from someone else, and watch your network grow.
A version of this article was originally published on November 15, 2012.
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