There’s a popular saying that its not what you know, its who you know. Networking is often considered one of the most important skills for career development today. Knowing the right person can often open doors for you in ways that very few other methods can.
A recent survey by LinkedIn revealed over 70% of participants were employed by a company where they already had a pre-existing connection. Finances Online also confirmed the power of a good referral, with their study confirming that networking alone was responsible for filling up to 85% of all job openings.
Networking can lead to new opportunities, help you discover new knowledge and skills, provide you with support, and introduce you to new perspectives. Also, let’s face it: meeting new people is often lots of fun!
Building connections is therefore one of the most important skills you could ever learn. In the words of Keith Ferrazzi, author of the best-selling book Never Eat Alone:
“I’ve come to believe that connecting is one of the most important business—and life—skill sets you’ll ever learn. Why? Because, flat out, people do business with people they know and like. Careers—in every imaginable field—work the same!”
Here are six useful tips to help you build connections and expand your professional circle.
1. Start small
Shy about meeting new people? Start with those you know! You probably have many family members or friends that have valuable knowledge or experiences to share. From there, your friends can introduce you to their own friends and connections, allowing you to build your networks slowly yet surely.
Interested in learning more? Check out the ‘Strategies 2 Connect At Your Workplace’ class, available on ReSkills On The Go here.
2. Be genuine
Networking is about building genuine relationships, so be authentic and show interest in the other person. Ask open-ended questions, listen attentively, and be respectful.
Some people will definitely be easier to click with than others, depending on factors such as personality, shared backgrounds or mood. If you fail to make a meaningful connection with someone, don’t worry. You can’t win them all. Just move on and meet someone else.
3. Be open to anyone
You never know where the next opportunity will come from. The most unlikely person might one day prove to be a gateway to the most unexpected treasures. So never dismiss anyone, no matter how different they may be from you, or how strange they may seem at first.
Try to talk to everyone at a party or event. Approach people that most others overlook, such as wait staff. Adopt the mindset that you can learn something new from everyone, without exception.
Interested in learning more? Check out the ‘5 Secrets to Unleash Unlimited Self Esteem’ class, available on ReSkills On The Go here.
4. Attend events
Attend as many events, conferences or gatherings related to your industry or interests, and be prepared to strike up conversations with people. Make sure to have your business cards or contact information readily available to exchange.
Before attending anything though, be clear what you hope to gain from this networking experience. Are you looking for a new job, seeking mentorship, or trying to expand your social circle? Having a clear goal in mind will help you target your efforts and make the most of your time. Research the companies, speakers, and attendees ahead of time. This will allow you to make talking points when making the rounds.
5. Offer value
Many people believe that the key to successful networking is helping other people to succeed. Be generous with your time and expertise, and look for ways to offer value to others. This can be as simple as introducing someone to a contact in your network, sharing a helpful resource, or offering to help with a project.
6. Follow up
After meeting someone, make sure to stay in contact. Get their correspondence details, and follow up with a thank-you note or email. Arrange a meet up for coffee or lunch, or simply stay in touch through social media.
Also remember to be patient. Networking takes time and effort, so don’t expect immediate results. Keep showing up, stay positive, and be persistent in your efforts.
Interested in learning more? Check out the ‘Develop Better Relationships and Networking via High Emotional Quotient’ class, available on ReSkills On The Go here.
Remember that networking is a long-term game, and building strong relationships takes time and effort. With these tips in mind, you can increase your chances of networking successfully and creating meaningful connections.