Written By Andrew Slade
Regardless of where you are in your professional life, networking is an essential part of advancing your career. And while it can be tough forcing yourself to go meet new people after a long work week, just think back to your professional infancy and recall your parents telling you “it’s not about what you know, but who you know.” And I’d like to remind you that the “who” started from the bottom just like yourself before achieving some degree of success.
So why does networking deserve all of this attention? Besides the obvious, it’s the only professional setting with no hierarchy; where the driving force is generosity rather than greed. And every professional remembers the one individual who helped accelerate their career. So in order to best build your network, follow these 5 networking tips and you’ll be well on your way to your next career opportunity!
#1: Be intentional.
Like many things in life, networking is an investment paid for in time. As such, you should take full advantage of your limited opportunities. Last year the Harvard Business Review published a study concluding that professionals who approach networking with an opportunistic mindset almost always professionally outperform those who perceive networking as a necessary evil (1). So we suggest approaching networking opportunistically and strategically, and you can start by creating a means to measure your success. For instance, set networking goals ahead of time and be prepared to deliver your own value when the opportunity arises. And while the impact of making a new contacts might not be immediate, the compound effects of networking over time are significant and long lasting.
#2 But don’t pitch the whole room.
The last person you want to be is be the guy or girl hijacking every conversation, dealing out business cards like they’re playing cards. The purpose of networking is to create new professional relationships, and like any relationship, it’s a two-way street. It’s important that you listen to your professional peers, their stories and experiences, and let them know that they’re more than just another business avenue. And even though you’d like to meet everyone in the room, if you can’t remember a person’s name after meeting them, it’s unlikely that your professional network actually grew.
#3 Align common interests.
How can your interests and goals help forge a more meaningful relationship? What is it that you have to contribute? Even if you’re junior compared to the rest of the room, you can always find something valuable to offer by thinking beyond the obvious. It might not always be easy, but given that you have the most to gain, pitching an open mind and work ethic can sometimes be enough to open the right door.
#4 Find a higher motivation.
Included in the HBR’s networking study was a finding that suggested that those who accredited some sort of altruistic motivation behind their work were perceived as more authentic and acquired more business while networking (2). It’s important to keep in mind that you’re engaging in conversation with a person, not a title. So don’t be afraid to be personable and engage your philanthropic side!
#5 Remember to follow up.
If you’ve had a great conversion, ask how to best keep in touch. Get back to them within 24 hours and reference something you talked discussed to help put the face to the name. This is especially important if you find yourself networking over a few drinks; let your conversation partner(s) know you’re serious about potential opportunities. Do these things and you’ll be set up for success… may even make a few friends along the way.
(1, 2) Casciaro, Tiziana, Francesca Gino, and Maryam Kouchaki. "The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty." Administrative Science Quarterly 59, no. 4 (January 13, 2015): 705-35. Accessed July 6, 2017. http://static1.squarespace.com/static/55dcde36e4b0df55a96ab220/t/55e86ab6e4b01fadae0024b5/1441295030249/Casciaro Gino Kouchaki ASQ 2014.pdf.