How good you are at networking can make or break your chances of finding work happiness. If you’re not good at building and sustaining professional relationships, you may miss out on opportunities to grow in your career.
Introverts, please don’t panic. This doesn’t mean you have to stretch too far out of your comfort zone. But finding a happy medium between ‘keeping to yourself’ and ‘creating a strong network’ can be easy with the right approach.
Read on for five steps to effective networking, no matter which stage of career you find yourself in.
Networking is uncomfortable for a lot of people. Actually, it’s uncomfortable for almost everyone. But it’s helpful to remind yourself that networking is an investment in your professional happiness — and this investment is in the form of long-term relationships.
You cannot build lasting relationships by being insincere. If you try to resist who you truly are, you will stunt your own personal and professional growth.
The natural development of a relationship is built on finding common ground. If you find a common point of interest, your conversations will start to feel more natural and less stiff.
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Remember, the point is to connect with someone, not make small talk that will be forgotten later. If you talk only of their position, you will come across like a fan. Your will feel like the conversation is forced, because it will be.
Know Your Own Worth
People beginning their careers or leaders striving to make it to the executive level can easily feel intimidated when networking with people in positions they see themselves in someday.
But remember this: You hold your own value.
You must believe that people have something to gain through connecting with you. Networking should be an opportunity for discovery. While you cannot will yourself into being an extrovert, concentrating on what you bring to the table will give you the confidence to attend networking events and actively engage with people.
This is a particularly interesting time for networking events, as many professionals find themselves back in conference centers for the first time since 2019. They are eager to make new relationships and get back to networking the old-fashioned way: In person.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
One of the worst things you can do is attend a networking event or party, collect a bunch of business cards, and then never contact the people you met. Building a lasting relationship requires more than one interaction.
Send a short email to those you connected with within the few days following an initial meeting. Let them know how much you enjoyed the introduction, and possibly set up another meeting — even if it is just a phone call.
We all try to make a memorable impression when meeting someone new, but the truth is that people are busy and if you give them the opportunity to forget about you — they will.
Invest in the Success of Others
Lasting relationships depend on both parties being invested in the success of the other. It is important to not only recognize your own skills, but to use your expertise, connections, and knowledge to benefit others.
This act of service deepens a relationship and will change the way you view networking. Instead of feeling as if you are “pushing yourself” on someone, you are able to feel a bigger purpose of helping another.
Networking feels less selfish.
This is especially important for senior leaders to recognize, as their years in their profession have earned them knowledge and resources that have the potential to assist and encourage entry-level or marginalized professionals in their field.
Find a Mentor. Be a Mentor.
If you practice the above four codes of effective networking, you may find that you’ve attracted the attention of many possible mentors. Someone may approach you, but don’t be shy about approaching someone you admire.
Senior leaders are constantly (or at least should be) looking for the next generation of talent.
It is also important not to underestimate the power of feeling useful. Senior leaders often become reflective at this point in their careers, and would welcome the opportunity to support a young professional build their own career.
Networking can be an incredibly rewarding professional experience, and these days, quite frankly, a necessary component of professional success. Remember, nobody got to the top all by themselves.
Even people we admire hate putting themselves out there. Approach networking with an open mind and a willingness to learn.
Those who network are proven to advance faster, have a higher capacity for innovation and creativity, create more opportunities and have an increased level of job satisfaction.
And, after all, isn’t that the point?
Joe Szynkowski is the happy founder and owner of The UpWrite Group, a small local firm that has offered corporate communications, personal branding, public relations, and ghostwriting services since 2008. Email Joe@TheUpWriteGroup.com for more information.