Given that we're in 2014, it should come as no huge surprise that a strong professional network is one of the best career accelerators available. But, this can be a challenge to push into reality. Upon employing just a few tricks, though, networking should be no sweat.
It was my network that opened so many doors for me — it got me almost every position I held during my university education, and the company I established benefited massively from it.
Since I consider myself to be a particularly outgoing person, I’ve never had a hugely difficult experience finding common ground with others and networking, But still, introverts can learn to grow, and eventually profit, from their networks as well.
Networking does not mean connecting to every person you have ever met on LinkedIn. It also does not mean asking every company representative for an internship after he or she led a presentation at your university.
It does not mean going to events and trying to grab as many business cards as humanly possible. The people who employ these tactics may call themselves “networkers,” but truly, most just find them to be annoying.
First Steps With Your Network
Every journey starts with a first step — this is true for most experiences in life and is most definitely true for creating a strong network.
If building a network does not come naturally to you, you must actively decide to do it. One of the most important rules to embrace is to give more than you receive.
If you happen to need a contact or a foot in the door someday, it will be significantly easier for you if someone already owes you a favor.
Focus on a few new people when spending time at a social gathering. It’s important to be authentic and to build genuine relationships rather than worrying about the quantity.
Concentrate on a few, intensive conversations rather than many shallow ones. After having had a good conversation, try to set a casual lunch or coffee meeting.
A few days later, send a follow-up email thanking the person for the pleasant conversation and revisit the suggestion to get together.
It is also a good practice to include further information like a short newspaper article on the topic of the previous conversations. Though first meetings rarely take course this way, it’s truly this simple to do so successfully.
Keeping In Touch With Your Network
Once you enter the world of networking and put together the first pieces of the puzzle, it’s up to you to keep in touch.
If your last email correspondence with a contact was two years ago, your great conversation from the recruiting fair is probably lost and meaningless.
Use your Outlook or Gmail calendar to help you stay in touch by setting them to remind you to stay in touch with your contacts. A short email or a quick phone will successfully update you about your contact and keep you fresh in his or her mind.
These two simple steps (properly approaching someone and stay in touch) will set you apart from masses. Go make connections today!
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