Networking isn’t about collecting business cards on conferences or other industry events. It’s mostly about building long-term trusting, mutually beneficial business relationships. Some people are outgoing and naturally good networkers, while others feel confused and don’t know how to build and maintain these connections.
The greatest thing about being a good networker is that you won’t have to worry about finding a new job or project. When you know many people in your industry, it happens naturally and you are always aware of the upcoming great things. Moreover, good networkers tend to have stronger friendships and a more active social life. Luckily, networking skills can be learned. Today, the experts of our local resume services will share the advice on building your network.
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Asking everyone you know for a job, handing business cards to everyone you’ve met during the conference and adding as many people on LinkedIn as possible aren’t the best networking tactics. Here’s how to create a truly effective professional network.
1. Polish your elevator pitch
Elevator pitch is a quick introduction with information about what the company does and your role in it. The power of a well-rehearsed elevator pitch is that it communicates the most important career points in less than a minute. When you’re unprepared, you’re likely to mumble and pause looking for the right words or forget to mention an important detail. And with a prepared elevator pitch you’ll make a good first impression at the right person anytime.
2. Build an online presence
The majority of networking takes place online these days. Hence, it’s important not only to have a profile in the most popular social media (such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter), but also to ensure that it makes the right impression. Focus on sharing work-related content, add pictures taken in professional settings or the conferences. Add the information that helps you build an image of a qualified, in-demand professional. As soon as you build a professional online image, reach out and start communicating with people instantly. As you see, you don’t have to go to a conference to make a business connection.
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3. Listen to a conversation before joining
Want to approach a group of people talking during an event? To make a great first impression, listen to a conversation for a couple of minutes and only then join in. Contribute a meaningful comment about the subject of discussion rather than introducing yourself and starting to talk about your work. Such discussions about speakers or industry news lead to more positive and stronger connections rather than the exchange of business cards. First and foremost, networking is about exchanging ideas, discussing interesting events and building human connection, not looking for someone who could help you with the job.
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4. Be a good listener
As you speak to a new acquaintance, it’s important not only to talk about yourself. Give your interlocutor an opportunity to speak and ask questions to find out more. People love talking about themselves, so focusing on the other person will make them like you. To achieve this, however, you need to be a good listener. Smile, nod, make eye contact to show that you are interested in what they are talking about.
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5. Find a reason to follow up
Having a brief conversation and exchanging business cards during the event will lead to nothing if you don’t maintain the new connections. So, find the reason to follow up in a few days after the event. Share the helpful information that is connected to your topic of conversation, recommend a movie/book you mentioned, or ask more about the project they were talking about. A timely and quality follow-up can lead to meaningful and positive connections and helps you stay the top of mind for your new acquaintance.
6. Think of how you can help others succeed
The top feature that distinguishes the best networkers is that they are focused on helping others succeed in the first place. Instead of asking for help with the job or trying to sell something, good networkers concentrate on how they can bring added value to their interlocutor. That’s exactly what you should be doing. Even if someone from your network offers you help with employment or growing your business, think about how you can return the favor. Willingness to give more than you get not only makes you a great professional connection, but also opens you more professional opportunities to build and maintain success.
7. Focus on quality over quantity
When it comes to building a strong network, quality always beats quantity. Ten meaningful connections you can reach out to anytime are far more important than a hundred of LinkedIn connections with strangers or dozens of business cards. Concentrate your networking efforts on people you easily find common language with and develop these connections. Connect with these people on a personal level rather than speaking business only.
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8. Maintain the new connections
Making a new connection is only half the battle. The most important thing is to maintain those new relationships so that they get stronger over time. Reach out to your connections regularly and engage with them to keep those connections active. Meet for coffee or meal time after time to discuss interesting events, exchange the information or offer help with their business or project. Your network is the fuel for your career. If you put in enough effort and time into maintaining meaningful connections, you won’t have to worry about your career and finding new opportunities.
9. Start building connections early
Networking experts recommend that you start building a network early. It’s much harder to connect with influential people later when there’s a strict hierarchy. Choose the most knowledgeable, ambitious and driven people in your surrounding – in the next decades, such people are likely to make it to the executive level. Thus, you’ll be friends with powerful professionals who can give your career a head start. If you are only entering a job market, find a mentor. Not only they can share helpful advice for your career development, but also they are a valuable connection you can ask for help or recommendation.
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