If you’ve been following along on our blog, you know that we believe business networking to be crucial for a successful career. You also know the networking basics.
But once you have a network established, it’s not enough to continue to rely on the same people. Professional networking isn’t something that ends once you attend a few networking events and exchange business cards. Networking is about building relationships with people you meet.
An important part of networking is introducing people in your existing business network to each other. Hopefully, people in your network will reciprocate and you can expand your network as well.
The more people who know about you and what you do, the more potential business you’ll have coming your way.
Here are some key networking tips on how to work on expanding your network, and thus your business:
Join online networks and actually participate in them. It’s easy to join groups and follow along with the posts, but it’s harder to chime in with your own two cents now and again. The most important part of being active on social media is remembering to be kind, judgment free, and yourself! On social media people will often present a highly curated image of themselves. Of course, present your best self too, but be authentic. When people start to see your name pop up on Facebook groups, Instagram comments, or on their Twitter feed, they’ll be more likely to recognize you at networking events, or think of you and your business when the time arises.
It’s important to network with all types of people. After all, the people in your industry may not be your top clients, they may be your competitors. People outside of your field will often be the people who need your expertise and business the most. Make a concerted effort to step out of your usual routine and meet new people from all walks of life.
At its core, networking is about meeting new people. You can meet new people anywhere, and an especially great place is volunteering. People who are volunteering often have at least some shared interests around the thing they’re volunteering for, but the majority of the time they’re people from all different types of backgrounds. While you’re volunteering for a cause you care about and making a difference, make a difference for your own business as well by sharing what you do with the people you meet. Be sure to be equally as curious about what they do and listen to what type of leads might benefit them.
Networking locally is great. When you establish a core group of people that you can connect with, you share a feeling of trust that they’ll send leads to you. However, meeting with the same people over and over again will eventually lead to a stall in expanding your network. While it’s important to cultivate lasting relationships in your core network, you should also be making an effort to attend new events. This may mean traveling a little bit outside of your local area, or it could mean joining in virtual networking events, like video seminars.
If you haven’t already, take advantage of your alumni network. Regardless of your school spirit, or lack of, while you were in school, nostalgia is a great unifier among alumni. Connect on LinkedIn, or message someone on Facebook for coffee; you can chat about your alma mater and get caught up on each other’s careers.
Each person in your existing network has their own network that extends beyond you. Actively try to be connected with people that know someone in your network. Also, reflect on if you’re a good connector. Do you refer business between people in your network? If not, try to be more conscious of how you’re benefiting your network. It’s not all just about getting connections for yourself. Reciprocity is key to networking. If you’re great at referring leads, your network will grow stronger, people will feel the need to return the favor, and you’ll be more memorable.
Ah yes, LinkedIn, the most loathed of all social media sites. We all know it’s good to have one, but it’s difficult to be active on it. However, it’s not as hard as it may seem at first glance. Chances are you’re reading industry news pretty regularly. Being active on LinkedIn is as simple as sharing the news you’re reading. Be careful not to share unprofessional content that you might share on Instagram or Facebook. Try to keep LinkedIn strictly about your job. Reach out to people and endorse your friends, family, and coworkers; they’ll likely return the favor.
Have local networking events seemingly run dry? Are you bored of the typical events and don’t feel that any existing ones meet your interests, or reach your target network? Well don’t just gripe about it; create your own event! Think outside of the box, create a unique event, and invite your existing network and beyond. Even if people from your existing network show up, a new event will likely reinvigorate their commitment to the network and to you. Plus, they’re more likely to invite someone new to an event that’s also new. People will feel less intimidated joining a brand new group that doesn’t already have cliques established. A fresh start is good for everyone.
Networking isn’t easy; it’s a lot of hard work and time, but it’s well worth your efforts. It’s something that is always in flux and expanding, so you can’t let up once you have a networking foundation. Keep working at it so your business can expand as your network does.
Do you have any networking tips? How has networking helped your career? Share your insights on UltiCareer to help students, or anyone, get to know what your type of job is really like.
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