How to Network for Success
Networking is the process of getting to know – and building relationships with – various people in a professional capacity.
Often, these people work in a similar – or adjacent – industry, field, or company, or hold a similar professional role to you, and whose acquaintanceship could eventually help to further your career.
There are numerous reasons to network, including getting to hear new ideas and news within your industry, gaining access to potential new clients, becoming acquainted with people who could provide future job positions, and even simply building social and professional confidence.
Though there’s so much to gain from networking, many fail to network properly and come away from networking events feeling discouraged because they couldn’t make the connections they wanted to.
With this in mind, here are the four things you can do to maximise your success when networking, build a web of valuable connections and develop professional relationships that last.
Attend networking events.
This might seem extraordinarily obvious. However, for those who’ve rarely – or never – attended these events, taking the plunge and attending a networking event is the biggest hurdle to overcome.
Take small steps: you don’t need to set super ambitious networking goals for yourself if you’re beginning your networking journey. Instead, set the goal of just attending some of these events; the likelihood is that, even if you don’t start a conversation with someone, someone will come and start chatting with you.
If you think it could make you feel more comfortable, consider inviting a colleague or a friend in the same – or related – field to tag along with you. This way, they’re there to pick up the slack if the conversation lulls.
Once you’ve been to a few of these events, your confidence will grow, and you’ll feel more comfortable exchanging ideas and striking up conversations with new people, which is the key to successful networking.
Do your research beforehand.
Before attending a networking event, make sure to read up on recent news and innovations within your field so that you’re always able to contribute value to a conversation.
Being well informed about your industry will make others notice, including people who are at a similar point along their career path to you and those above, who are more likely to notice your potential if you seem competent and well-informed.
More than brushing up on industry knowledge, researching the people attending a particular event – so that you can figure out before who you’d most like to build a connection with – is also a good idea.
From here, you can research these individuals further to find common ground and discern how you can best connect with them.
To make the most of the networking event, you could develop your research into an action plan, outlining who you want to connect with at a particular event and how you intend to do so.
Focus on how you can help others (rather than what you can get for yourself).
People can usually tell if someone is talking to them with a particular agenda – such as getting your foot in the door at a particular company or securing a high paying client – and it’s doubtful that this method of networking, in which you’re focused on what you can get for yourself, will garner the desired results.
When your motivations are to share ideas, build relationships with interesting people and – most importantly – help others, the connections you make are going to be more substantial and are likely to present you with a ton of opportunities in the long term.
With this in mind, before you attend a networking event, it’s good to have a clear idea of your strengths and the value you can provide to others.
Then, when you spot an opportunity to help someone with your professional skills at an event – or perhaps you could put them in touch with another member of your network who could help – you can do so while building a positive reputation for yourself in the process.
Follow up thoughtfully.
There’s no point in going to a networking event and talking with many new, interesting people if you’re not going to follow up with them afterwards. If you never speak to your new connections after the event, it’s likely the rapport you built will fizzle out and go to waste.
With this in mind, make sure to get people’s business cards – or connect with them on LinkedIn – and send an email or message a day or two after the event has taken place, expressing your pleasure at having met them while referencing the things you talked about at the event.
To maintain this relationship over time, consider occasionally sending articles or opportunities that you think would be relevant to that person, or even suggest a work collaboration, to keep the connection strong.