Whatever your disposition; whether you’re introverted or extraverted, friendly or aloof, confident or anxious, networking is vital to professional success. It’s a skill that’s often extolled upon extensively when we talk about important career moves – and for good reason. The professional relationships you acquire throughout your career are essential for professional development. When well-nurtured, they provide professional support and even help with career advancement.
However, a lot of the time, this is often easier said than done. Networking requires you to go out and take initiative when making new connections – something that can be difficult for many newer professionals. Fortunately, there are ways to make this feat manageable, and even enjoyable.
1) Know what you want
The first thing you need to do before you start the work of building your network is plan out the kind of relationships you’re hoping to cultivate. Think about your desired outcome of each of these connections and gear all your networking efforts towards achieving the goals you feel are most pertinent to where you are in your career.
Creating a network around your long-term ambitions is extremely prudent. For instance, if you’re focused on career advancement, arrange your network in a way that allows you better access to developmental opportunities in your industry and surround yourself with people who can recommend you for roles that suit your interests and talents.
2) Attend networking events
Going to networking events is often your best bet for making meaningful and lasting professional connections. After the pandemic, these events have started to take place virtually more regularly. This is especially helpful when there are geographical barriers to the connections you’re hoping to make.
At any given networking event, you’ll be able to meet with industry leaders and high-ranking insiders who may become invaluable to your professional experience. You could even come across recruiters who are looking for someone with your exact profile.
3) Talk to people with more experience
Sometimes, when we’re faced with the opportunity to converse with someone that we admire, we lose the ability to articulate our thoughts clearly. The advice you wanted to seek and ideas you wanted to share quickly desert you and you’re left making inane small talk. So how can we ensure a successful and fruitful interaction when we come across someone with more experience than you?
Firstly, you have to approach the person with a clear goal in mind. Refrain from simply walking up to a person and telling them that you admire them. More often than not, this approach will lead to a bland “thank you” and a stalled conversation.
Think about their career and what aspect of it personally resonated with you. Remember to incorporate their work, achievements, or philosophy into the conversation so the other person has something substantial to respond to.
Meet the person confidently. Try not to put them on a pedestal – even if they do have more experience than you. Remember that you’re equals, and you have a lot of valuable insight to offer as well. It’s best to treat a networking conversation as a balanced exchange rather than a one-sided barrage of compliments.
4) Look online for connections
Networking is usually an in-person activity. This, however, doesn’t mean you can’t make lasting connections virtually. Online networking has become increasingly common, especially after the circuit breaker rendered us homebound.
In fact, creating an online network can be incredibly helpful for those looking to expand their connections beyond geographic barriers. If you’ve set up a professional profile on any given social media site, you could try adding at least a few people to it a week. These individuals should be people you’ve met during networking events or fellow colleagues from the same or varying departments.
Additionally, you may even want to reach out to higher-ranking and more experienced people in your industry. If they are someone who makes frequent and informative posts, you’ll be able to gain invaluable insights you can then apply to your job. For more personalised advice, privately message your career-related questions. Most of the time, these professionals will be glad to reply to a well-worded query.
In the realm of professional advancement, networking emerges as a vital tool, interconnecting aspirations and accomplishments. By fusing strategic intent with purposeful engagement, individuals can leverage their relationships to steer their careers. Whether through goal-aligned networking, active participation in events, meaningful dialogues with seasoned peers, or online connections, the tapestry of connections weaves a path toward success, underscoring that networking is an evolving journey, enriching personal and professional domains in unanticipated ways.