Whether you’re looking for a new job or not, networking is a vital skill that you should be continually developing. As much as you might wish it to be different, your own skills and expertise at your job aren’t always enough. Often, it’s exactly like that saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Who do you know? And what sort of relationship are you developing with your contacts? Here are 6 tips to maximize your networking efforts.
- Forget the speed-dating approach.
Quantity networking could be compared to speed dating. The results are minimal, you don’t really end up knowing the people, and they probably aren’t going to stick their necks out on the line to give you a recommendation. Networking is an investment that takes time, and like a relationship, it requires intentionality.
- Think beyond yourself.
No one enjoys being around a selfish person. If your goal is to take from others, that will become apparent to the people you’re trying to network with. Instead, look for areas that they need help in, and then become that source of help. Maybe you’re an expert in that area or you have a contact who could help them out. Whatever it is, make yourself useful to them first. Look to help others out, and not only your own goals.
- Get social.
There can be many benefits to using social media. It’s an avenue where you can follow up with connections and even make new ones. However, if your only goal is to promote yourself, people will soon lose interest in you and become annoyed at your self-seeking attitude that’s spamming their social sites.
- “What’s your favorite color?”
The answer to that question used to be the most important factor in determining whether you wanted that other kid to be your friend. While favorite colors really don’t matter anymore, having similar interests with someone can be a great way to connect with them. Do you share an interest in the same type of music? Remember that and use it to get to know that person better. Finding something in common creates an instant connection and you’ll be more likely to be remembered by that person, especially if you use that shared interest as a follow-up.
- Don’t forget to remember.
While you’re making all these connections, be sure to make mental notes. Connect faces with names, and names with interests and facts. If necessary, you can write down some of this information so that you’re sure not to forget it. Use whatever memory tool you like, just make sure you’re making those mental notes. Actively listen to what they’re saying so that you can have a meaningful follow-up with them later. This implies that you will eventually follow up (which is the whole purpose of first establishing network connections).
- Be on the lookout.
Put yourself out there. If you’re more comfortable with the behind-the-screen approach, you’ll need to put some more effort towards this one. You can make network connections at parties, conferences, events, asking others for introductions, classes, social media, etc. If you’re required to go to conferences or take specific classes for your career, take full advantage of the networking opportunities there.
Networking is incredibly vital in this day and age, but so many fail to establish quality contacts because of missing the mark in these areas. Basically, it comes down to treating the people you network with as just that: people. People meeting and getting to know other people. Implement these 6 tips, and watch how your networking quality improves.