One sure way to take your career to the next level – whether you are just starting your career or are already a professional with loads of experience – is through building a network. Networking opens you up to new opportunities, makes you noticeable, grows your self-confidence, among many other benefits.
To form lasting connections with the right people, you must be a master of networking. But if you have never networked before, where do you even start? We’ve answered this question for you with these five tips to polish on how to start networking.
Build Friendships Instead of Networking Connections
You don’t want a networking connection to feel like you are only using them to advance your career. As such, treat your current and potential networks nicely and try to form real and meaningful relationships with them.
Even if you don’t know it, you already possess enough networking experience from the friendships you’ve built throughout your life. Leverage this skill to connect with successful people too. As you network, keep the following tips in mind:
- Do not make the relationship all about business;
- Be cheerful, confident, and professional;
- Do not talk too much about yourself- make your interactions about him/ her;
- Do not pressurize them, set some limits;
- Understand their challenges.
Start Networking with the People You Know
Before you go out of your circle to network, look around you. You might find that you know a couple of people who can assist you. Even if they are not in your industry, they may know someone else who is. If you’re just out of college, you can start with your relatives and friends. These are people who know you and are more likely to connect you with an opportunity.
If you’ve exhausted the people you know, try reaching out to people working in the industry that you hope to enter who have studied in the same college as you. You look for these connections in your institution’s alumni database or even on LinkedIn. It’s easier to kick it off with people you share a background with, as you’ll have many things to talk about. Make sure you start on the right foot by mastering by practicing some good pick-up lines beforehand.
Other connections you can reach out to during your job search are the people that mentored you in the past. It could be a senior colleague at a previous job/ internship or a professor who guided you through your research paper. Once you’ve covered the contacts you know, you can broaden your wings to strangers.
Find Something of Value to Offer Your New Networks
If you decide to approach someone new with the hopes of finding new career opportunities, know that their time is valuable. So, don’t expect to get help or assistance for free, even if you’re just a new grad. As such, you should aim to give your networking connection value. So, before you reach out, research the company or individual to learn more about them and prepare something useful for your first interaction.
Therefore, give without expecting any payment or return from them. Resist the urge to request favors in the beginning. Invest time in strengthening the connection in the first days. With time, they will notice your gestures, and your efforts will pay off. But if the response isn’t what you have hoped for, don’t let out your disgruntlement. Remember, not every contact you make will lead to a job.
Reach Out to Your Networking Connections Regularly
As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t look at your connections only in terms of what they can do for you. Some job seekers forget about their networks as soon as they get a job or whatever kind of benefit they were looking for. You may find yourself in situations where you need them later on. And it would be awkward to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a couple of years. Worse still, they might forget about you.
So, it’s not only important to build your network, but also to keep it thriving and active over the years. Reach out to your connections regularly. For any help or advice that they give you, follow it up with an email thanking them.
If they introduce to one of their acquaintances, keep them updated on your meetings. Lastly, if you’ve agreed on future interactions or meetings, reaffirm your commitment to them and follow through on your agreement.
Don’t Ask for Employment Openly When You Start Networking
One mistake the majority of job seekers make when building a network is asking for a job right away. Why is this discouraged? For one, you may come off as desperate. Second, the network may not feel comfortable recommending to a company or employer as they don’t know you well enough to trust you.
Instead, start by requesting advice. This move will have the following benefits:
- You will have an opportunity to show off your likable personality.
- You will come off as somebody who likes to learn and better themselves.
- You won’t seem pushy or put the person in a tricky position.
As you learn how to network, you will realize that it’s not really about what you are looking for. Instead, you form these relationships to help you get to unexpected opportunities. If you build a robust and meaningful network, you could scale to heights you never thought you would reach.
Finally, as you try to expand your network, ensure you update your LinkedIn profile. If you want to get noticed by companies and other professionals in your industry, LinkedIn is your best bet. But remember to also connect with people offline and outside your field. Most importantly, don’t talk negatively about employers you’ve worked for previous with your connections.