Photo credit: Igor Milić Photography
Let’s face it—there are two types of people in this business world: those who like networking and those who do not. Those who do are usually bubbly extroverts who would be comfortable talking to a wall or self-promoting people who are always trying to advance their careers. Networking can be effortless and graceful for all if done properly. If this skill doesn’t come naturally to you, here are some ways to properly build and maintain career-oriented relationships that will help you as you navigate through the world of business.
#1. Build Up Your Contacts
Traditionally, this would mean collecting business cards, which may be the best method for you. If there are other means that you use to keep track of your professional contacts, make sure to using and updating them regularly. Having these contacts organized and up-to-date can help you in the future when you need mentoring, funding or potential partnership.
#2. Get to Know People for the Sake of Them Being People
Nothing feels worse than a “cold call” with the obvious goal of soliciting career or financial help. To network most effectively, keep up with your connections by paying them regular attention throughout the year. Actually, take interest in their families and careers. Do not treat people like projects or numbers-they will see through it. Business works through relationships, so work on listening to others and building them. TIP: Try to remember at least one thing about what is happening a person’s life, so if you see them at a conference or out-an-about, you have a conversation starter. 🙂
#3. Use Social Media
Technology has really helped with networking, such as social media. It can ad value to you in searching for a job, an investor or even continuing education. LinkedIn is a great tool, but depending on your career, Instagram and YouTube may prove even more useful. And, engage with comments or maybe article shares with people. “Liking” their pictures or posts is not enough.
#4. Follow Up
When you meet someone at an event and exchange contact information, be sure to follow up with them the very next day. Even if all you did was follow each other on Facebook or Twitter, it can’t hurt to message them a “Nice to meet you” text with your email included. If someone gives you a card, we highly recommend emailing them the following day, if for no other reason than you’ll have each other’s contacts long after the card is lost. 😉
#5. Help Others
We all lead super busy lives—probably too busy—which is why it can be difficult to commit to people who ask for coffee, etc. However, once you have some longevity in your career, you realize how important it is to do for others what you will eventually need for yourself. Take time to help those who reach out to you when possible (including friends, interns, virtual strangers and others). Remember point #2.
#6. Connect Them, Too
One of the great things that we love about networking is connecting people who haven’t asked for it. If you know your friend is a graphic designer, and you have a friend who’s working on building a website, it’s going to be appreciated by both if you intro with a note such as, “Thought you two might be into a coffee, I’ll let you take it from here!” Contacts are valuable, especially when they are referred by a trusted friend and business associate.
#7. Do Not Burn Bridges
Not all working relationships end well, but it is important to “take the high road” and move forward, not dwelling on the past or bad mouthing your previous work associate(s). This speaks volumes to all parties involved and those who are watching your interactions.