Networking is a potential key to career success since it helps professionals forge connections that could lead to mentorships, job opportunities, and more. As a result, most people know that networking is worth the time and effort. However, not all networking strategies are as effective as others. If you want to improve networking, here are five ways to make it happen:
1. Focus on Quality Over Quantity
When networking in person at conferences or similar events, many professionals treat networking like speed dating, aiming for a high number of relatively short interactions. They try to work the room, making a bit of small talk here and there while keeping their eyes focused on what’s happening around them and not the person they’re speaking with currently. While that strategy may seem to align with the concept that making connections is a numbers game, it often comes off as disengaged and disrespectful, which isn’t ideal.
Instead of speaking with as many people as possible, focus on having quality interactions with the attendees you engage with during the event. Begin a discussion, see if the relationship has shared value, and then work to strengthen it. Often, one solid connection is worth far more than you expect, so aim for quality over quantity.
2. Ensure Mutual Value
Networking isn’t about finding people who can assist you with your needs; it’s about forging connections where the benefit is mutual. Otherwise, the relationship quickly ends up feeling lopsided, and that can cause busy professionals to disconnect if they don’t believe they’re getting more than they’re giving.
When you first meet someone new, ask questions to see how you can provide them with value. If they ask similar questions, provide insights into what you’re hoping for from the connection. Then, make sure you give as much as you get, ensuring the relationship remains balanced.
3. Supplement with Social Media
Social media is an excellent networking tool, but it shouldn’t be the only way you connect with others. Typically, face-to-face networking yields stronger connections than a digital-only approach. As a result, it’s usually best to view social media as a supplement and not a solution.
Use social media to remain in touch with connections you’ve made elsewhere primarily. If you make an initial connection on social media, find ways to get more Facetime with them, such as by setting up a coffee meeting or at least trying video chats.
Additionally, don’t use social media to spam potential contacts. You’re better off focusing on one or two high-potential connections than randomly reaching out to 20+ professionals who happen to be in your field or industry, as it gives you time to personalize your approach and focus on relationship-building instead of just adding contacts to your list.
4. Plan for the Next Contact
After you engage with someone, try to plan your next contact formally. Whether that’s saying you’ll chat on social media within a specific timeframe or arrange a casual get-together, it helps ensure you both stay on each other’s radar.
Additionally, have a plan for continuing the conversation. The ability to reference a point the person shared last time shows you value that discussion and want to learn more, which can help strengthen the connection.
5. Don’t Ask for Job Search Help Right Away
Asking someone to assist with a job search is a big deal, so it isn’t appropriate if the connection isn’t vital. Often, supporting someone looking for a new position means offering a potential referral, which requires significant trust. Focus on building the relationship before requesting that type of assistance, as they’re more likely to say yes if they feel confident in what you offer.
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