Although you might not want to admit it, it’s necessary to have an edge to get anywhere. As much as you may like to believe that a person can get to the top with brains alone, it’s pretty unrealistic. Sure, a lucky few people out there have probably done it, but chances are, he or she established some solid connections along the way.
So what is networking exactly? Networking is essentially when like-minded people recognize and create business opportunities through connecting with each other. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that networking can open doors. The people you meet and the friendships you establish can lead to endless opportunities.
Beyond merely opening doors, though, it can create doors that might not have before existed. Dynamic duos establish, business partners come together, friendships form; the benefits are limitless and they all begin with you.
Don't know how to network? Not a problem.
1. Use Social Media.
As much as I sometimes hate Facebook, it can actually be pretty useful. One of my biggest career moves came after I Facebook messaged a successful person with similar interests to me. The worst-case scenario is that he or she ignores you, which isn’t so bad. If people on your feed annoy you, learn to skim and move on.
And of course, be cautious with what you post. Also, get LinkedIn — it allows you to update your professional profile, have connections, and receive recommendations and endorsements. However, you can't just make a profile and hope for the best — you have to do the dirty work and find your connections. You have to be your own messenger. You have to go the extra mile. But, it will be worth it, trust me. Anything can be useful if you choose for it to be useful.
2. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone.
Be the annoying person who always wants a foot in the door somewhere. Do you want to be a doctor? Research until you find the email addresses of the doctors with whom you want to be in contact. Send emails, call, do whatever you have to do. Feel uncomfortable? Good. Don't let complacence stop you from moving forward.
3. See Everything As An Opportunity.
Are you going to a party this weekend? Great! Introduce yourself to people with whom you might not normally speak. You never know whom you will meet! Perhaps that man at the bar you see every Friday is actually the editor of a major magazine.
You won’t know unless you strike up a conversation. And even if he’s not a major magazine editor, at least now you made a new friend. Is there a mainstream artist in town? Well what do you know; you're an aspiring journalist and would like to score an interview. Find a way. This is your chance. Can't interview the artist? Interview his fans. There's always an opportunity if you make one.
4. Be Confident, Not Cocky.
There's a difference between somebody who is full of himself, and somebody who carries himself with confidence. Be yourself while still being professional. There's nothing worse than someone who puts on a show but is a completely different person later.
It’s not just about meeting somebody. It’ s about keeping him or her around and building a personal relationship. Establish a friendship and get to know the person, otherwise, the connection is meaningless for all parties involved. My “connections” are now my closest friends. I would give an arm and a leg to help them and I know they would do the same.
6. Dedicate Time And Be Patient.
Establishing good friendships and solid connections doesn't happen overnight. If you met somebody on Tuesday, he or she probably won’t be ready to do you a huge favor on Wednesday. Building friendships and establishing trust takes a while. Be patient in the meantime and stay dedicated!
Networking is extremely important. In fact, it might be the most important thing you can do for your career. It’s not greedy, it’s not selfish, and it's not unprofessional — it’s a fact of modern business. Yes, what you know is extremely important. It’s great to understand your line of work and to have all of the technicalities down to a science.
BUT, knowing the right people will push you that much further ahead of your competitors. The right person can take you from Walmart to Wall Street. When you realize that who you know has a huge bearing on your path to success, you'll be well on your way to getting there.
Photo credit: Oceans 11