Whether you’re looking to change jobs, expand your client base, or make new partnerships, networking is an essential professional skill to have. Unfortunately, for a lot of people the idea of networking is stressful; introducing yourself to complete strangers can seem awkward and forced. For others, networking just isn’t a priority that too often gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do-list. No matter the reason, it’s time to get out there and start networking! You never know what new connection will lead you down your next career path or business venture. Here are 6 tips to get started:
- Make networking a part of your schedule
Set aside a block of time each week that you can devote to making new connections. Incorporating networking into your weekly schedule will eventually turn it into a habit that becomes just another part of your routine. What you do with your weekly networking hour can vary: this can be anything from emailing, following up, reaching out on social media, or going to an event, etc.
Making new connections is only half the battle. The second half is following up. The key to networking is to build and maintain a lasting business relationship, which means staying in contact regularly. After you meet someone, send a follow-up email a day or so later and then continue to follow-up every so often. This can be reaching out to congratulate someone on a new position, wishing them a happy birthday, checking in to see how things are going at their current company, etc. Maintaining a regular communication and relationship will make people in your network more apt help you if you ever want to request help down the road
- Ask questions
Often times people associate networking with asking for a favor, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. Make sure to ask questions. Find out how you can help the people in your network develop their careers and businesses.
- Be active on social media
Build your personal brand on social media and use the various outlets to help you stay connected. Social media is yet another avenue to maintain and build your professional network. Make relevant posts and share content regularly to stay at top of mind within your network.
- Pre-event preparation
Going to a conference or networking event? Do some research on the event before you go. Find out which companies or people will be attending. If you have access to an attendee list, reach out to the people you want to meet prior to the event and set up a time to meet while you’re both there.
- Try a networking app