The idea of networking is enough to make some people’s skin crawl. And the fear of rejection can cause sweaty palms and queasy stomachs. But it’s one of the best ways to get ahead in your career. And with the right tools and tips, it doesn’t have to be so tough.
In this article, we’ll explain why networking is worth your time and provide you with 10 tips to help you connect with others better.
Networking can be a valuable tool throughout your professional life. When done right, it can provide you with opportunities you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
You can connect with individuals in your field to get insights into other jobs in the industry, which can help you grow professionally and personally. Intentionally seeking out new connections, whether online or in-person, is one of the best ways to ensure your professional success.
If you nurture your network and help others, one of your contacts could help you get your foot in the door of a company you’ve wanted to work for. In fact, 70 - 80% of people say they’ve found a job through networking.
Even though it’s beneficial, networking is challenging. Let’s look at 10 tips that you can use to help step up your game and begin building relationships with your peers.
The first step you’ll want to take is looking at your inner circle. Odds are you’ve already made some valuable connections throughout your career that you may not have considered. These could be former colleagues, schoolmates, or even your friends and family.
Identify who in your existing network you want to stay connected with. After that, think back and determine if there’s anyone you met along the way that you didn’t connect with. Reaching out to new contacts can be tough. If you’re shy, you can start with your immediate family and friends and branch out from there.
Once you make a connection, whether it’s online or offline, it’s easy to forget to nurture that connection. You can fall into the trap of only reaching out when you need something.
Unfortunately, if a connection hasn’t heard from you in a year, they aren’t likely to think of you when a job opportunity at their company pops up. Keeping in touch can look different for different people. For close connections, reaching out to have a quick back-and-forth over the phone every couple of months could suffice.
If you reach out to a connection you haven’t invested in and ask for something, odds are you won’t be successful. People aren’t likely to go out of their way to help you if you aren’t providing value in return. This is why it’s important to nurture your connections. You never know when they could prove valuable.
Let your connections know you’re available to chat. Offer yourself as a reference or share your knowledge through a social media post. These are all simple ways to provide value that don’t require a huge investment on your part.
This doesn’t mean you should only reach out to your network when you’re preparing to ask for something.
Don’t carry out all of your networking with reciprocation in mind — you’ll come off as inauthentic and self-interested. Instead, offer value to your network, such as offering to be a referral for those in need.
You have a lot to offer, even if you don’t think so. Showing genuine interest in your connections will get you far and cost you little. If a former colleague gets a new job, congratulate them and wish them well. When a friend shares a project they completed on their social media profile, leave an encouraging comment. Follow up and ask what they’re working on now.
These small acts of kindness and connection mean more than you think.
As you get more accustomed to networking, you’ll realize there is a lot to keep track of.
Not only do you want to remember who’s who, but you also want to know what field they’re in and where they’re working. Sometimes it can be hard to even remember where you met. You could keep a detailed notebook filled with your connections or use a social media network like LinkedIn, which can be a valuable networking social platform.
To piggyback on the following point, networking online is almost mandatory today.
While there will always be a place for face-to-face networking, social media networks provide you with the most reach and value that’s accessible 24/7. Social media profiles let you track your network with little to no effort from you.
Need to find out where a particular person works? Just check their profile. Want to let others know you’re looking for a new job opportunity? Update your status.
The number one tip for how to not be shy when networking? Stop apologizing. You don’t need to be sorry for asking someone more about themselves or looking for ways to better yourself.
Apologizing when reaching out to connections is the sign of an inexperienced networker. Operate off of the assumption that, one day, you’ll have something to offer the person you’ve reached out to.
Rather than keeping everything about work, consider sharing more about yourself. Your professional connections may be interested in your passion for tennis and could even share the same passion. For example, sharing that piece of information in a Jobcase post could help you build relationships with people you may not have been able to before.
You can also use your hobbies to connect with strangers at networking events. It’s a good way to break the ice and will help you stick out in people’s minds.
When networking, many people feel like they need to skirt the truth to get what they want. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Networking shouldn’t be inauthentic. In fact, the strongest connections are made when you’re genuine. Meet people you find interesting. Your strongest connections will be with people you click with, and they’ll be more likely to make referrals in the long run.
Networking events are the pinnacle of networking. While they aren’t necessary, they are a good way to do a lot of networking fast.
You’ll be able to make connections with people from different companies and industries that you may never have met otherwise. In-person networking events are a great place to distribute your business card and make small talk. However, long gone are the days of having to attend these types of gatherings.
If you put these 10 tips into practice, you should have no trouble expanding your network, regardless of time constraints.
Using tools like Jobcase and other social media site can help you nurture your relationships through quick check-ins and status updates while providing you with opportunities for growth.
Looking for help with your job search? You can visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.