Many people struggle to find the right balance when it comes to professional networking. While you want to promote your skills in a confident manner, you do not want to come across as arrogant or phoney.
But connecting with others is a key activity for furthering your career. The more you practice your networking skills, the better you become.
Here are five important tips to keep in mind when trying to build up your web of contacts.
1. Offer Help to Others
Most people, when they hear the word ‘networking’, think about self-promotion and ‘getting a foot in the door.’ These are some of the primary goals, but networking is a two-way street. You are far more likely to make a positive first impression and build a good reputation for yourself by being generous.
If you are trying to establish a relationship with someone who you think could help you in the future, start by learning about them and asking if they have any goals you can assist them with. Share information and ideas with those around you, particularly your area of expertise. Offer to introduce friends who work in similar industries or who you feel might benefit from knowing one another. You do not need to go too far out of your way to contribute to another person’s professional life.
Once you have helped someone else, follow up with a call or email and ask how everything worked out. Positioning yourself in their memory as a helpful, resourceful person will increase the likelihood of them returning the favour in future.
2. Start Small
Even when there is a big part of you that is dying to find that one professional link to your dream-career, you need to come across as genuine and friendly. This is how you can establish a strong sense of trust that will help you in the long-run. When it comes to sharing stories, make sure you are also listening to and engaging with what others have to say.
Career adviser Hannah Morton-Hedges says that it is important to find the right balance in networking situations. While others in the industry might be interested in your skills, “they do not want you to become a talking CV.” A great way to engage others is to ask them questions. Most people will enjoy telling you what they do and will follow this by asking about you. This is your opportunity to incorporate your strengths into the way you describe yourself.
Networking takes time and the quality of your connections is more important than the quantity. So, rather than handing out business cards to everyone you see, focus on having real conversations.
If you are attending a formal networking event, the best approach is to find out who will be there and do a little bit of background research about their roles. Hannah Morton-Hedges also suggests learning about developments in their organisation.
If you find that the individual has done something noteworthy within their field, mention that you have read about it and want to learn more. Remember to act natural about this. Don’t recite their biography word-for-word.
A simple complement goes a long way, but do not overdo it.. For example, you could mention that you were really impressed by what they did within their organisation and ask if they mind telling you what some of the challenges were, or what sorts of things they will be working on next. Let others know you value their work, but keep the conversation going so you do not sound obsessive.
4. Make Yourself Visible
There are a number of simple techniques you can use to increase your visibility within your field. Make sure you are known to others in your own office or workplace and then try branching out.
If you have found a tool that you think will help someone you have recently contacted, send it to them. If your acquaintance is becoming more like a friend and you know about their hobbies and interests, don’t be afraid to recommend the occasional film or book that you think they might enjoy.
The next essential part of building visibility is having an online presence. Depending on the Industry, this can be anything from a LinkedIn or Google Plus account, to a blog, online portfolio or personal website. Find someone who has the career you are chasing, search their name in Google and see what sorts of platforms they use to promote their work.
While these tools are important, you should also take the opportunity to meet with others face-to face. Attend conferences and social evenings. Volunteer for events and offer to help with new project.
5. Keep Trying
One final point to remember is not to feel discouraged if you don’t succeed in establishing a connection the first time around. Many people are held back from branching out by the fear of rejection. If someone is busy or not in a position to help, do not take it personally. The more you put yourself out there, the more skilled you will become when it comes to promoting yourself and