Network Like a ProDec 09, 2020
There’s no doubt that networking can give your career a good boost. Many employment opportunities are never posted, and they’re ultimately filled by someone that knew someone that knew someone else. It’s important to put yourself within that social chain.
In this age of COVID, in-person networking events may not be taking place, but there are plenty of virtual events you can take advantage of. Do a little online research and you can find just about any type of networking activity that aligns with what you’re looking for.
To get you started, here are some action items you can do to build and cultivate your network:
- Examine your current resources. You already know someone that is well-connected. Think about all of your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. Consider your entire social network. Maybe you’re a member of a church, alumni organization, or a local women’s group. Are you leveraging those contacts effectively?
- The key to effective networking is consistency and persistence. A little each day is more effective than a monumental effort every once in a while. It’s like going to the gym. You need to be consistent in your efforts if you want to see big results. Set aside time to reach out to people each week
- Join relevant local and national organizations. Whether you’re a chemist, firefighter, priest, school teacher, or plumber, there are organizations that cater to your needs and interests. Become a part of them. In many cases, your employer will foot the bill. Do some research and see what you can find.
- Make use of social media. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, get one. If you have one but haven’t looked at it in months, review it, update it, and become active on the site. Utilize social media and make your presence known to the world. Make contact with a few people regularly via social media.
- Create an online portfolio. Quickly and easily build a free one-page website to showcase who you are. Carrd.co and Crevado.com are two free sites that are popular.
- Be proactive. The burden is on you to start conversations. For those of us who are introverts, this can be hard. One of the easiest ice breakers right now is, “What have you been watching?” Have two or three ice breakers ready. And if you run out of things to say, bring up items that we have in common: the weather, kids, how you’ve become a Zoom master, what hobby you’ve taken up during COVID. Take the bull by the horns and virtually mingle. You’ll get much better with practice.
- Learn to ask open-ended questions. It’s hard to maintain a conversation by asking questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Ask questions that require a detailed answer. You’ll find it much easier to speak with others when you use open-ended questions.
- Follow up religiously. Communicating with someone one time won’t do much for you. Reach out to the most promising contacts you’ve made and touch base. Stay in touch.
- You can’t expect to receive more effort and value than you provide. You truly receive what you give when it comes to networking. You won’t get much if you don’t give much. Make a real effort to help others.
- Focus on quality over quantity. Make an effort to make a few real connections rather than throwing a 100 darts at the wall. Quality counts.
- Connect others together. This can be especially powerful. Bring other people together. This is especially easy to do and can pay off down the road for your own career.
- Avoid selling or asking for anything. If every time you reach out to someone you’re trying to get something from them, people will tire of you very quickly. Instead, give them something. “I know you’re interested in the effect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the trade deficit. Here’s an article I thought you might be interested in.”
Networking can be an effective way to begin the process of building relationships with potential employers. You can also get to know people that can give you referrals.
In the end, networking will be exacting how you view it, the time you put into it, and your attitude towards it. Having a positive attitude and having a curious mindset can make you a networking enthusiast!
Look at your calendar this week, how can you fit in 15 minutes of networking each day? Bring out your inner fearlessness and reconnect with a professional associate or make a new connection!