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How to Make the Most of Networking


Everyone has heard the phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” and while this age-old saying might seem worn out, it’s more relevant than ever in today’s professional environment. Regardless of whether you’re actively searching for a job or perfectly happy with where you are right now, it’s important to dedicate some of your time to professional networking. The reason? In a recent survey, LinkedIn found that 70% of people hired in 2016 had at least one connection at the company that hired them.

We’ve put together a list of helpful tips for building a network and networking more efficiently, as well as some examples of networking opportunities. 


Building a network: When you first begin, it’s a good idea to look at your existing network — chances are that you are more connected than you think! 

Think about your coworkers (past and present), managers/supervisors, family friends, alumni that attended your college, and members of your church, gym, and other organizations. Start reaching out to individuals from these groups that you think will be beneficial to your career development, as they can put you in contact with people in their network. 

If, after this, you want to expand your network further, try attending a networking event. Networking opportunities come in all shapes and sizes, from formal, industry-related conferences, to career fairs, to pottery classes at your local arts center. There’s always a chance to network. Other opportunities include high school and college reunions, as well as college-sponsored events for alumni and students to mingle. When attending these events, there are some key things to keep in mind for effective networking:

  1. 30-Second Pitch: When someone asks what you do, you want to have a clear, concise answer prepared. Explain your company, your position, and your clientele. 
     
  2. Quality over Quantity: Many people approach networking events as though it were a game of “who can collect the most business cards?” If you spend all your time trying to meet as many people as possible, chances are high that a) you won’t make a lasting impression, and b) you won’t be able to figure out who is important for your network. Instead, focus on meaningful interaction.
     
  3. Be an active listener: You have a limited amount of time at the event, so don’t waste it talking about yourself the whole time. After introducing yourself and explaining what you do, ask questions (and actually listen). People like talking about themselves, and asking questions is a good way to demonstrate that you care about what they have to say. Remember to be fully present — don’t scan the room for your next potential opportunity. The person you are talking to will notice, and it will likely leave a bad impression.
     
  4. Take notes:  After the event is over, take notes of what happened. Include things like: interesting people you met, people you want to follow up with, new information you learned, and people you may be able to help.
     
  5. Reciprocate: While networking is essential for personal advancement, it has to be a two-way street. Don’t just think about who can help you, think about who you can help, too. People will want to help you if they know you help others! 
     
  6. Follow-up: If you met someone interesting at the event or promised someone that you would help them, reach out to them within 72 hours after the event. If it’s a potential connection, ask to get coffee or lunch so you can continue the conversation you started at the event.


Maintaining your network: Now that you have started to develop your network, it is imperative that you maintain it. A big mistake that people make is, after they get a new job, they neglect their network. Even if you do not immediately need the support of your network, you never know when it will come in handy, so keeping in touch is important.

Here are some easy steps to keep your professional relationships strong:
 

  1. Social networking is key: If you aren’t active on LinkedIn, it’s time to change that. Try to share articles that are relevant to your industry 1-2 times a week. If you find an article that is relevant to a specific connection, send it to them directly with a brief personal message. This small effort will go a long way. Additionally, try and post a career update every so often to keep your network updated on your professional progress. 
     
  2. Make connections for others: As previously mentioned, networking is a two-way street. If you meet someone who would benefit from the assistance of one of your connections, put them in touch. Even if it doesn’t pan out, it will show both parties that you care.
     
  3. Inner circle: Identify the 10-15 most important contacts in your professional network, and make sure to have 2-3 meaningful interactions with them a year. Send an email or give them a call to check in and see how they are doing, both professionally and personally.  While social media is a great way to stay in touch and up to date with your extended network, your inner circle should get a bit more individual attention. 

 

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