I keep hearing “Network! Network! Network!” I already have a full-time position. I thought networking was just for job seekers.
In short, you should always be networking – no matter if you are employed or unemployed.
Let’s begin by defining networking so we are on the same page. According to Merriam-Webster, networking is “The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions specifically the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.” Networking is about building professional relationships. Essentially, it’s all about who you know, who they know, and how you might be able to help one another.
We are all busy with our professional and personal lives, so why take the time to network?
- To meet potential prospects/clients/customers/referrals
- To build relationships and/or friendships
- Help spread awareness about your product/service you provide
- You never know what your next opportunity will bring. Someone may be looking for your unique skill set.
- Do you like helping others? Pay it forward. You may know someone who is looking for a job.
- To get/give advice. Effective networking is mutually beneficial to both involved. It should not be a one-way street.
Steps on how to network:
Even when you understand the value and importance of networking and building professional relationships, you might ask yourself, “So where do I begin?” Here are suggestions for how to get started:
- What sets you apart? What makes you, YOU?! If you are not sure, ask people.
- Make a list of who you know including family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, managers (present and former), and affiliations/professional associations you are involved with.
- Identify what your need is. Do you want people to know about your company/service/product? Are you job seeking?
- Think about the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you can offer to those you’re networking with. Remember- networking should be mutually beneficial. Of course, you may not know exactly how you can help someone until you talk with them about their own interests and needs, but giving some thought to this before meeting them can help generate ideas.
What to do when you attend a networking event:
To ensure that you get the most out of attending a networking event, it can help to do some preparation before you go. Make sure that you take any necessary materials that will help you in making connections, such as business cards, brochures, etc. Think about how you want to introduce yourself. Some people find it helpful to practice a short “elevator pitch” that succinctly explains who you are and what you do.
Here are some suggestions on how to begin, track, and follow up on your networking conversations:
- A common thing people do when first meeting someone is to ask, “What do you do?” A great way to meet someone is to ask them, “What brought you here today?” That way the person doesn’t feel awkward if they are in a job search.
- Ask for their business card. Make a note on the back of the card about the conversation and follow-up with them.
- Connect with them on LinkedIn. Always send a personal note when sending an invitation for the connection. It can be something like, “Hi Joe, we met at the XYZ Event the other night. I really enjoyed our conversation and would like the opportunity to connect with you on LinkedIn to expand my network.” Once the person accepts your LinkedIn invitation, you can follow up with the conversation that you had with next steps.
- Keep a spreadsheet of the people you’ve met, where you met, a brief description of your conversation, and any next steps.
- Keep your networking fresh by sending an email or a LinkedIn message saying that you just wanted to say hello and that you were thinking of them. This will go a long way.
- Always ask the other person how you can help them. Even if there isn’t anything at the present time, there may be an opportunity in the future. Networking is a two-way street and beneficial for both parties.
Where can I find networking meetings/events?
If you are looking for networking and professional development opportunities, strategic HR inc. has a great list of HR events that are hosted by local and national organizations. Many of the events address topics of interest to a broad audience, so they are not limited to only HR professionals. Eventbrite and Meetup are additional sources you can use to search for networking events based on your interests and preferred geographic location.
Bottom line, you can network wherever you are…at work, at the grocery store, at sporting events, etc. The key is being open to meeting new people and being yourself. If you’ve thought about what you want people to know about you, it’s easier to dive in when networking opportunities present themselves. Remember to share your talents and not just your title. By effectively networking, you will reap the benefits both now and in the future. So always be prepared to network!
Communication often seems like a “no-brainer.” You have something to say and you just “say it.” However, hearing and listening are two different functions. HOW you communicate is often as important as WHAT you communicate when it comes to getting results! strategic HR inc. has years of experience preparing communications for a variety of audiences and topics. Visit our Communications page to learn how we can assist you with various communication-based projects.