Networking is a term that many people loathe. The concept of starting relationships and developing them for the sole purpose of furthering your business or career prospects seems distasteful more than beneficial. No matter where you are in life, be it still in education, starting your own business, or simply looking for the next step in your career, networking can make all the difference. Networking may be a good way to improve your future, but it’s also a great way of building a support network around you and your life, and for that reason alone it’s worth looking at ways to improve your networking skills. If you’re worried about your ability to network, or you’re looking to improve on your existing skills, then these smart networking tips could make all of the difference to your life and your future.
Create a networking plan
As with learning most new skills, having a plan is a good starting point. Knowing what you want to improve and how you want your networking to benefit you is a good way of finding the best routes for your own goals. Look around you, and find social experiences that are career-field related, as well as official sector-relevant volunteering options. The more that you plan, the more successful your networking will become. Always look for activities and events that are related to the area of employment you’re interested in, and tailor your plan to your own individual future. It’s a good idea to explore options that are even vaguely related to your area, as you never know when you’re going to end up chatting to someone who can positively benefit your future.
Societies and Events
If there’s one area that you should look into more closely, it’s already established networks and societies. These can be incredibly useful, and should always be a priority if you’re looking to hone your networking skills. Becoming part of industry-relevant events will help you become a recognizable face, and that can easily pay off in the future. If you’re still in education, you’re ideally placed to start working on your network building, and there is an Honor Society on many campuses across the country. Look at how a society can benefit both your time in education and your future after graduation, and even help you to work on the skills that will benefit you long-term. The longer that a society or event has been running,the more people will be involved in it. The more access you have to those willing to help you, the better your results will be as your networking skills develop.
It’s one of the most common fears in the world, but taking the time to develop your public speaking skills will pay off big time. Public speaking has the ability to draw potential contacts to you, so don’t be afraid to take a course that will develop the skill. Don’t wait to be asked to speak at a public event. Volunteer for any opportunity of course, but don’t be afraid to simply become part of the conversation at public events. Contribute to the public discussions intelligently and not only will your confidence grow, so too will your reputation. If you’re not sure where to start learning the required skills of public speaking, Toastmasters is a useful resource. Not only will this forum give you excellent public speaking tips, but it will also encourage your confidence too.
Be available, and be responsive
If someone wants to help you and you don’t respond, then you have missed an opportunity. You need to ensure that every email is answered in an organized way, and that voicemails and social media interactions are also efficiently and professionally responded to. It’s all about offering the same value and respect to others that you would hope to receive yourself, and that is widely considered the backbone of networking. This is especially important if you are communicating with that person or institution for the first time. When it comes to networking, first impressions really do matter, and you don’t get a second chance to try it again. If you’re meeting in person, always be on time (if not ten minutes early). The key is to be as professional as possible. Sloppy networking is as useless as not networking at all, so get rid of those bad habits and concentrate on your goals.
Check your online footprint
It is certainly the age of Google. When we meet people in a professional capacity, most people start the relationship off with a good Google. The phrase ‘everyone Googles everyone’ has never been truer, and if you think that employers and professional contacts aren’t checking your online presence, then you may be in for a shock. As we continue to commit more and more of our lives and personalities to our online personas, it is up to you to curate just what people will know about you. There’s nothing more disconcerting than chatting to someone that you are meeting for the first time, only to find that they have seen your holiday pics on Facebook. Tailor your social media to your professional personality and ensure that you have a personal brand that is consistent across every online platform. If there are elements of your past that you’d rather not show up in Google searches, then look for ways to reduce that visibility, or see if you can have it removed entirely.
These tips should see you kicking off your network management much more proactively. Ensure that you have a networking toolkit that includes business cards, your own website, as well as some professional clothing. The more that you exude professionalism in the most public aspects of yourself, the greater positivity you will get from your networking plan. It may occasionally feel like shameless self-promotion, but there isn’t really anything wrong with that. If you want the best future possible, then networking is a fundamental skill of the modern working world. Develop those skills,and your career will benefit.