Knowing how to network can help you create new career advancement opportunities. You may get a job referral or strengthen your skills by attending events with people in your industry or field. There are a variety of ways to network in person and online. In this article, we discuss 10 tips to help form professional and lasting network connections.
What is networking?
Business networking is the process of meeting others to exchange information, make new professional contacts and create helpful relationships. These relationships are useful when you are looking for a new job, to develop your skills or to increase your industry knowledge. You can connect with someone who works in the same field or company you’re interested in, or who could provide you with a reference or client in the future. Knowing how to network professionally will make it easier and faster for you to form valuable connections.
How to network successfully
Learning the networking basics makes it easier to create helpful connections with others. Whether you attend business networking events in person or online, following these networking tips can increase your confidence:
- Talk to new people at networking events.
- Attend new events.
- Create authentic relationships.
- Bring a memorable business card.
- Be confident.
- Stay connected.
- Help others in your network.
- Revisit older connections.
- Find new connections online.
- Form your own networking group.
1. Talk to new people at networking events
Take full advantage of a networking event by meeting as many new people as you can. Making new contacts can expand your network and increase your chances of receiving a new opportunity.
When you attend a new event, attempt to greet five new people per hour, so you can spend about 10 minutes talking to each person. During that time, you can converse about basic topics, such as your professions or hobbies, to see if you can create a common connection.
2. Attend new events
You may tend to go to the same type of networking events where you already know many of the attendees. However, it may be beneficial to attend other events, where you can meet new people and diversify your interests.
There are many sources online for finding new networking events. Your local community might have a social media page that advertises different functions near you. If you attended college, there might be a university alumni website that lists potential networking events.
3. Create authentic relationships
Networking often involves talking to different people at an event. Creating several quality connections may be more beneficial than engaging in multiple quick conversations, since you are more likely to creating a lasting impression during a longer, more meaningful discussion. If you are at a networking event and feel that you may be able to form a valuable connection with someone, try to find shared goals and interests that could extend the conversation.
4. Bring a memorable business card
Most people who attend a networking event will bring business cards to exchange. Many business cards are the same size and follow the same color scheme and format. To stand out, you might consider creating unique business cards that relate to your industry. For example, if you are a photographer, you could design your business cards to look like a camera or include samples of your work on the back. A creative business card may make people more inclined to connect with you again after the event.
5. Be confident
Being self-assured during a networking event can help you successfully navigate the occasion and create more useful connections. When preparing for a networking event, rehearse responses to common questions you might encounter when you speak to new people, such as, “Tell me about yourself,” or “How long have you been in the industry?” Having an answer ready will ensure your delivery is smooth.
During the event, initiate conversations with others, offer a firm handshake if appropriate, stand up straight and maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. These forms of nonverbal communication show your confidence and can make it easier to maintain a conversation.
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6. Stay connected
Once you have a new relationship, it is important to continue to build and strengthen the foundation. You can call, text or email a new contact a few days after the networking event to express your pleasure in meeting them. Make an offer to meet with them at a specific time to continue your conversation about a shared interest. Try to reconnect with them every few months by emailing an interesting article or industry-related news.
If you connected with a potential employer during a hiring event, follow up shortly afterward to gather additional information about the interview process. You can send an email to thank them for their time and attach your resume and cover letter to show your initiative.
7. Help others in your network
Part of networking is offering help to your connections, which can show you are generous and dependable. Contacts may be more likely to reciprocate your generosity by recommending you for an opportunity that matches your qualifications.
When communicating with people in your network, actively listen to them to determine if they need assistance in finding a new job or expanding their client base. You may be able to help them by acting as a reference or providing them contact information for a hiring manager or potential customer.
8. Revisit older connections
When you network, you will create varying levels of relationships based on common interests and goals. In some instances, you may communicate infrequently with people you do not share a strong connection with. Maintaining your connections is an important part of networking, since you may be able to provide each other with valuable industry information, such as job openings or client referrals.
To keep an open line of communication, contact those in your network you haven’t spoken to in a few months. You can ask for updates on their career or if they’d like to meet in person to reconnect.
9. Find new connections online
While many people professionally network in person, you can also find new connections online. Connecting with people online can help you create a larger and more expansive network. If you have a professional profile on a social media platform, you could set a goal of adding five new people each week. You could add people such as colleagues in other departments or individuals you met during in-person networking events.
It can also be useful to try to connect to experts in your field. If the expert posts content regularly, you may learn valuable information that you can apply to your work. If you want to make a more personal connection, try sending them a private message with a question that relates to your industry or a comment about how you admire their work.
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10. Form your own networking group
When you form connections at an event, try inviting a small group to meet again at a later date. Consider planning interactive activities that can help people feel more comfortable creating conversation. Forming your own networking group can help you develop closer relationships with individuals and create potential opportunities.