Developing a strong professional network can be a crucial tool in achieving your short and long term career goals. However, effective networking requires more effort than passing out business cards at generic networking events and halfhearted attempts to connect with others on social media. Check out the 5 tips below to really boost the power of your networking this summer and beyond!
1. Set a networking goal:
Networking, the same as career mapping, requires a clear goal and subsequent planning. Are you looking to grow within your current organization? Are you trying to advance your career in a new environment? Maybe your goal is to break in to an entirely new industry or field. In any case, defining your networking goal is the first step in developing a strong and effective network.
Your goal will set the course for your networking strategy. If you are looking to grow within your current organization, try making a list of 10 people you’d like to know within your company. They could be peers, colleagues on teams you are interested in learning more about, or senior executives. Conversely, if your goal is to advance your career at a different company, make a list of 10 companies that you would like to work for and why. In either case, be sure to take some time to research the companies or people on your list. If you are trying to enter a completely new field or industry, give volunteering a try! Offering your talents to an organization aligned with your career goals can be a great way to connect with others and gain exposure in your field.
3. Always be prepared:
Great networking opportunities can often happen where and when you least expect it. Whether it’s a chance meeting with a colleague you’ve been hoping to connect with, or meeting someone at a sporting event that happens to work in your industry, you should always be prepared to switch gears and strike up a conversation. Networking events are helpful, but remember to be open to meeting others no matter the venue.
4. Remember to listen:
While it is always important to keep your goals at the forefront, remember that networking is a two way street and act accordingly! Networking, at its best, opens up a dialogue and professional friendship that can last the length of your career. Listening so that you can also help others accomplish their goals creates a stronger and more effective network.
5. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up:
Follow-up will often start immediately after your initial conversation with the person you’d like to add to your network. When a dialogue with someone feels worthwhile, take the time to offer your information and suggest a follow-up to your conversation over coffee or lunch. If you get the business card of someone you know you would like to connect with, be sure to write their name and even a little about the conversation you had on the back. They are much more likely to reach back out to you if you can remind them of your initial connection. After that, remember to reach out to those in your network on a fairly regular basis. Whether you are inviting them to another networking event, or sharing a story or article you think they would enjoy, maintaining contact with those in your network is crucial to keep the relationships alive.