If you find yourself struggling to make more career friends and foster professional connections, you probably need to reexamine your networking strategy. Effective networking takes time and effort, but it begets great rewards.
As you build relationships, remember, it’s not all about you. Instead of a “What’s in it for me?” mindset, approach every networking opportunity thinking, “What can we do for each other?”
Are you a selfish networker?
Of course you have needs and goals. But so do others. Networking is partnership where everyone benefits by:
- Getting ahead.
- Making introductions and cultivating long-term relationships.
- Accessing learning, development and growth opportunities.
When networking, offer value before you ask for something. Doing so early on proves you’ll be a valuable lasting connection. It also encourages others to return the favor.
Do you wait too long to follow up?
Follow up within one business day of your conversation and refresh the other person regarding what you talked about. Make notes and keep records of your outreach efforts and the status of your relationships. LinkedIn’s Relationships tab is a helpful tool for this purpose.
Do you regularly keep in touch?
Don’t reach out to your connections only when you need something. They’ll feel used – and rightly so.
- Send occasional friendly notes or emails just to see how things are going for them. This keeps you fresh in your connections’ minds. Then, when you really do need them, they won’t feel like you’re approaching them out of the blue.
- Participate in online communities and conversations. Offer yourself as an industry expert or advisor. Provide links to relevant articles or presentations. Do the same by providing helpful information in person. What goes around comes around!
Accomplish It by Working on It
Networking is not a one-shot deal. Weave it into your regular tasks and duties. Schedule time for it on your calendar if that’s what it takes. Ideally, it should become second nature.
- Begin with at least one hour a week. You’ll probably need more – and that will come in time – but an hour is a solid start. Scan the daily business news, attend a conference or event, or respond to an invitation to connect on line. Set up a lunch or date for coffee or drinks.
- Commit to a project that enhances your exposure. This could be writing a guest blog post or speaking at a seminar. Offer to mentor an entry-level professional or allow a student to shadow you for a day. These are excellent building blocks for your image and reputation.
- Nurture five to 10 key relationships. Not to disregard the others, but focus on those that offer the maximum potential return on your investment. This doesn’t change the required give-and-take balance; if anything, it accentuates it even more. What matters most is not the length of time spent on each contact, but rather the frequency and quality of interactions. People are busy, so don’t overdo it. Decide on the most venue they prefer, be it the phone, email or a text message.
A professional Fresno career coach can be a great source of direction on how to effectively network and further build your career path strategy. To learn more, read our related posts or contact the PrideStaff Fresno team today.