Professionals use networking as a means to form relationships with others, in like or related fields, that help to expand ones’ effectiveness in an organization or industry.
A key element to effective networking is to make you known. The premise being that the more people you meet, the more people there will be to get to know you and remember who you are. You should use every professional and social opportunity to meet and connect with new people.
Making friends and letting people get to know you on a personal level is an important aspect of networking. It is important to let the people you meet get to know who you are, how you think and what skills you have to offer. Being open, honest and comfortable with just being you is the best way to do that.
It is important to leave a positive impression with everyone you meet and to send the message that you are not only competent, but also a pleasant person to deal with.
Being optimistic and excited about what you do makes them remember you and want to maintain a connection with you. A key to this is to be diligent with returning emails and phone calls to maintain your credibility with them.
5 Advantages of Professional Networking
1. Business Leads
Networking is a great way to acquire new business leads. Using the contacts you make when you meet people can open doors for business opportunities.
Communicate professionally when you follow up on leads. People want to help others but aren’t interested in someone badgering them for business. Be sensitive to timing and use common courtesy when following up with contacts.
2. Career Opportunities
Statistics show that networking is the best way to land a new job. Professional networking can expose you to jobs that aren’t posted online or in newspapers.
Making others know that you are looking for a job, and what your expertise and experience is, could open career doors of opportunity.
3. Personal Opportunities
Networking can also be a personal benefit. Professional relationships you develop can be used for identifying practical solutions to everyday life.
As an example, you can use your network to identify a contractor to do a remodeling project on your home or help you find an athletic club for your children.
Weaving personal conversations into your network helps others get to know you in an intimate way and helps build the relationship.
4. Identify Best Practices
Networking is a great way to identify business best practices or industry benchmarks. Learning from what others do is a valuable strategy for all businesses.
For example, if you own a restaurant and you belong to a restaurant association, you can find out what the latest software programs are or employee management practices that you can bring back to your own business.
5. New Business Trends
Networking can help you stay on the cutting edge of technology and new business trends. These types of relationships and “inside” information can give you an advantage over your competitors by implementing new and fresh ways of doing things.
Having said all of this, networking is a skill and some people are just naturally more gifted at mingling with people they don’t know and making friends on first contact.
Practice being friendly and learn the art of striking up conversations. Learn the trick to remembering people’s names that you meet. Get a system; write something specific about a person on the back of their business card so you can remember them when you get back to your office.
Does anyone have success stories to share through networking?
photo by: pantheonuk
Article originally published, Feb, 2010, updated, May, 2014.