I’m often asked how I got so connected in my community. After 25 years of working in public and community relations, that was part of my job. But for those who are looking to network and connect today face different challenges. Yes, you can still network during this social distancing era, but you’ll need to be creative in how you do that. Look for virtual happy hour events, zoom connecting events, etc. But know that establishing a strong network is a critical part of the professional world. What is networking? It’s building relationships with people within your community and in your industry. These are people you would want to call on for a project, referral, advice or job opportunity.
So how do you network properly? And what are the benefits?
When you network the right way, it brings about new ideas, different perspectives, opportunity for friendship or mentorship and countless resources. These days you do not have to go to a meeting or conference to network. You can do it on a conference call with a mentor or peer, attend virtual industry events or connect in social media groups/pages. You should also be networking while at work, in meetings (live or virtual), on breaks, or during any social time. Remember, connections can be made at any time and often they come about randomly. Building relationships with people you encounter will always be a positive thing for your career and for you personally. You never know when you might meet someone and down the road need to refer to them for some unusual reason that could truly impact your life.
Networking is a two-way street, so you should be prepared for a give and take relationship. If you’re just building a network so that others can serve your needs, it won’t work. People will see through your motives. Networking is a life-long, ongoing process and it shouldn’t be considered a task that you cross off your to-do list, You must stay in the networking mindset throughout your entire career to really succeed.
Here are some Tips to build a Strong Network:
Quality over Quantity
It is important to build genuine relationships within your network. You will be more comfortable asking for and giving help to someone you genuinely know and care about. Focus on the relationships you build and make sure they are authentic. Connect with anyone you can and then cultivate the relationships over time. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And remember, it’s better to have five solid relationships you can count on than 50 mediocre acquaintances.
Stay in Touch
Don’t wait for someone else to reach out to you to continue the conversation. Connect with your relationships often and just check in to see how they’re doing. Send an email, comment on a social post or send a quick text to check in or you can even ask them to lunch, coffee or drinks. Little check-ins are so important and can make a huge difference.
Meet People Through Other People
Go to that coffee meeting. When someone invites you to coffee to chat, go and be present! Introduce your friends to your other friends and let them do the same. Take every opportunity to meet someone new. If you need to connect with someone in a particular industry, ask your current contacts if they know someone or can make a referral.
Diversify Your Events
Attend anything you can (in-person or virtual). Events do not have to be in your industry for you to attend. Other industry events are a great place to meet new people, build connections and create a diverse network.
You could volunteer your time to help a local non-profit for a day of work and you’ll be amazed at the diverse group of people you meet. Many companies give credit to those who participate in volunteer work programs, so ask your company if they have anything like that. Change your scenery and do something new that helps the community. It will be worth it!
While networking can seem intimidating, with a little planning, organization and dedication, you can build genuine connections for a strong professional network that will allow you to succeed in your career. You’ve likely heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” That can often be true and you just never know where those connections will take you in the future.
That’s all I have for now. Happy Networking!