While networking isn't everyone's idea of fun, in this day and age it's a necessary skill if you're wanting to build contacts and advance in your field. There is great value in improving and honing your networking skills and you have the opportunity to do this every time you meet or are introduced to somebody. Becoming a better networker is one way to find more success in your life and here are some ways to do it.
Network With Your Current Contacts
Networking isn't always about forming new relationships, it can also be about cultivating your current relationships. Nurture the relationships that you have and invest more time in friendships that might have gone dormant and this can be as beneficial as gaining a new
Focus On Quality Over Quantity
At an event, don't spend your time trying to talk to everyone there or stressing that you haven't spoken to enough people. Instead, you want the time to you to spend networking to be about forming quality relationships and having meaningful conversations. The best networkers are those who come across as sincere and trustworthy and establish genuine relationships as a result. This is hard to do if you're frantically trying to hand out your business card to everyone there.
Just like exams or presentations, preparing before you attend a networking event is likely to give you better results. Do research ahead of time about the event, the speaker, and the attendees so you know beforehand who are the people you should be talking to. This will also help you to think of interesting conversation topics to bring up. It can also be useful to prepare some questions before you go so that you can ask something more than 'what do you do?'. Remember that networking is about listening to and helping others so make sure that you don't spend your whole time giving a sales pitch.
Consider Further Training
One concrete way to learn better networking skills is to enroll in a short online course. These can be done at your own convenience and help to give you the tools you need to be a more confident networker. Courses like these, whether they focus specifically on networking or on leadership and people management skills, will change the way you approach networking and interact with colleagues. Such training can make a notable difference to your career in the long-term.
Use What You Have
LinkedIn is an invaluable social media networking tool so it's a good idea to make sure that your profile is always as up to date as it can be. It's a great way to connect with people you've met and given you an easy way to get in touch with people after events. Connecting with people on LinkedIn also gives you access to their connections so you can always be widening your online circles. Also, don't overlook using other sites where you can find jobs and meet others in a community.
Attend Events With Someone You Know
If you are quite introverted or often feel overwhelmed at networking events, go along with someone you're comfortable with. Having somewhere there for moral support can make it much easier to approach people and start conversations with strangers. This is a case where there can be strength in numbers!
Follow Up Afterwards
One of the most important parts of networking is following up with the people you've met so that you can remain memorable and continue with the connection. Follow up promptly and try to arrange a second meeting, whether it be coffee, lunch or a phone call. If you've said that you'll get in touch with someone or that you want to see them again, make sure you stick to your word otherwise people will question your sincerity. Once you've met somebody, try and reach out every couple of weeks and check in with them.
Remember The Small Stuff
Listening when networking is important and can help you to form solid relationships. It can be useful to jot down a few key points about each person you meet at an event to help you to remember some small details about them. This can help you in future conversations and serve you well if you reach out when someone has a birthday or important meeting coming up.
Networking can be daunting but it is definitely a skill where the more you practice the better you get. By being prepared and thoughtful in the process, successful networking can make a big difference to your professional life.