For a lot of people, the first word that comes to mind when we think of networking is “daunting”. It can be so hard to talk to people without seeming like you’re using them. One of the things to keep in mind is that networking is a habit that you can build over time. The people who are the best at networking have practiced it so much that they have become naturals at it. Remember, it will get easier the more you do it. Eventually, people will do the networking for you. They’ll start recommending you, and you won’t have to push those relationships on your own. For now, though, here are a few tips to build a solid foundation to start networking.
1. You aren’t an island
You already know people who can help you network. Friends, family, previous co-workers, people you went to school with, etc, are all good people to start with. You never know who someone may know unless you ask. Now you have a team of people helping you rather than trying to take on the daunting task of networking all on your own. Also, a great way to practice networking is by talking to people closest to you first. You’ll feel more comfortable, and this does absolutely count as networking.
2. What is your goal
a) Do your research
Are you looking to make career advancements? Moves? Maybe you’re at the beginning of your career and have questions to make sure that this is the right fit for you. Make sure that you do your research first to find out what your starting point is. You don’t want to start pursuing a professional relationship with someone without knowing anything about the profession.
b) Know your why
We know networking is important, but without knowing why you’re networking, you may find yourself unsuccessful. Whether you are specifically looking for a mentor, a friend in a specific profession, or someone who is more experienced, knowing what kind of connection you’re looking for, can help get clarity on the types of people you should be talking to. Having a goal will also help your conversations run a lot more smoothly.
3. Schedule to keep in touch
Write down in your calendar when you plan to reach out to someone and make sure that you are consistent. Should you reach out once a month? Bi-weekly? You don’t want to flood their inbox with messages, but you also want to make sure that they don’t forget you. When you reach out, it also doesn’t have to be specifically because you want something. Just saying hi and asking how someone is doing goes a long way. It can be intimidating the first few times you do this, however, just like any connection in your life, remember that professional connections also require effort.
4. Keep notes
This will help you remember things about them so that the conversation feels more genuine. Don’t be creepy, but if you have trouble remembering things, then write them down, so you can organically bring them up in conversation. This is a good way to let someone know that you’re listening to them. People appreciate it when you actually show that you care. But also, write down any advice or tips, you don’t want to get any information wrong. Especially if it’s the name of another contact, or a business that they’re recommending. You never know when a piece of advice that originally seemed irrelevant will suddenly become very important.
Who is someone that you can reach out to who can help you in your networking journey?
“Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority.”Herminia Ibarra