We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” While that might not be entirely true, it is common knowledge that networking with your peers can help you gain an extra leg up on the competition when a new position opens up. Making these connections with your colleagues, associates and clients can give you support throughout your career that you might otherwise be missing out on. So what are the keys to becoming a professional networker?
1. Practice makes perfect. We know that intimate social activity does not come easy for everyone. That just means you need to practice with those you feel comfortable with until you’ve got it down! If you are an ultra-introvert, start by building an online presence to help you branch out while still feeling comfortable. Attend events with co-workers or friends in the same industry to learn the dance of these networking gatherings.
2. Fake it ‘til you make it. Hold your head high, walk with a purpose, speak clearly and own your work and you are guaranteed to make a good impression on those with whom you have a conversation. Don’t feel all that confident at these kinds of events? Don’t worry – no one but you can tell you’re nervous!
3. Don’t lose touch. Once you start to build your extensive network, remember that it is not a collection to be put away on a shelf. Be sure to interact with your new and old connections often. If you are in the forefront of your contact’s minds, whom do you believe they will think of when a new opportunity arises?
4. Do unto others. Hate when your phone calls aren’t returned? Still waiting for that LinkedIn recommendation? Did you give awesome advice that wasn’t followed? All of these scenarios are situations that can annoy any professional. When it comes to networking, you get what you put in – make sure you aren’t burning any of your newly-constructed bridges.
5. Networking is important. And don’t you forget it! In a market where entry-level jobs are paying less and requiring more experience, never underestimate the power of making beneficial connections in your industry. You can gain relevant information, ideas, job leads, mentors and referrals, all from taking timeout of your busy schedule to slow down and just talk.
Sometimes the qualifications and accomplishments of young professionals are just not enough to get your foot in the door. Pair those with a gleaming recommendation or referral from a colleague and you will be well on your way to a bright and successful career.