While 2020 has made it difficult to have in-person conferences, events, and meetings, networking is still an essential part of your career’s success. While it may look a little different right now, more connecting on social media, via email, and through online conferences and meetings, networking has not lost its effectiveness when it comes to both career and business growth.
Experts agree that the most connected people are often the most successful. When you invest in your relationships — professional and personal — it will pay you back in dividends throughout the course of your career and life. Networking will help you develop and improve your skill set, stay on top of the latest trends in your industry, keep a pulse on the job market (both for job hunters and hiring managers), meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, and gain access to the necessary resources that will foster your career development and business growth.
Networking takes two main approaches: virtual or face-to-face.
It’s important to utilize both strategies to expand your professional network and be flexible when you need to shift from one to the other. The benefits are plenty:
- Build/Strengthen business connections: When you network correctly you can build trusting and reciprocal relationships – you help one another. Regularly engaging with your contacts and finding opportunities to assist them helps to strengthen the relationship and build trust.
- A fresh perspective: Your network can provide a fresh perspective, insights, and ideas to help you overcomes challenges. You’ll hear other’s experiences and solutions that might be helpful to your own situation. You’ll be inspired!
- Advance your career: Regularly attending professional and social events will get your face known and help you build your reputation as you engage with other attendees. Be it virtual or in person, show up and be present. Networking requires action.
- New opportunities: As a job seeker your new connections may open doors to new job opportunities. As a business owner or hiring manager, you may meet some amazing new prospects. In either scenario you’re more likely to receive introductions to potentially relevant people referrals. The more you connect, the more opportunities that will appear.
- Stay up to date on news and trends: Networking allows you to exchange information with peers and others in your industry – allowing you to learn best practices and latest developments from others in your network.
- Advice and support: Whether you prefer to get it or give it, advice and support is a key component of networking. Discussing common challenges and opportunities opens the door to valuable suggestions and guidance. Offering genuine assistance to your contacts also sets a strong foundation for receiving support in return when you need it. Be open to coaching – you’ll be surprised by your personal growth.
When it comes to networking, there is no hard set of rules. Different people use different ways of networking based on their comfort level and what works for them. Some people prefer more intimate and smaller groups while others love larger events. Try out several different types of networking to discover what style works best for you.
Network outside the box
You don’t have to attend large conferences or traditional cocktail parties in order to be a successful networker. Look for opportunities to network strategically in every facet of your life including digital. Think about what you’re passionate about and the types of people with whom you’re most comfortable. Many people find volunteering as a great way to network, and as a bonus, it’s usually for a great cause.
Have a plan
Before you take advantage of a networking opportunity, have a goal in mind. If you are doing some digital networking, your goal might be to connect with 5 people on LinkedIn. If you are attending an in-person event, your goal may be to hand out 15 business cards. No matter what type of networking you are doing, you should always have a goal in mind.
This is where a lot of people fail. Most can easily make the initial introduction and conversation with people, but few follow up or follow through. One conversation with a peer won’t leave a lasting impression or create a relationship – you need to invest some time in following up with them and building the relationship. Connect with them on LinkedIn, send them an email when you find an article that they might enjoy, etc.
Pay it forward
Networking is about providing value to the people you are connecting with. The more you invest in your relationships, the more you’ll learn about your new connections and the easier it will be to offer assistance — and get it in return!
It’s never too early or late to start networking! You never know when someone you cross paths with will have a profound effect on your life – and vice versa.Tags: digital networking, Ken McGovern, KMR Executive Search, networking, social media