What does it take to build a high-powered, effective network these days?
Networking – the art of making and maintaining relationships – is a two-way street: it’s about getting to know people whom you can help and who can help you.
Effective networking isn’t a result of luck – it requires hard work and persistence. What does it take to be a master networker? Here are eight of the most important habits to develop:
Step 1: Join a networking group or two
There are several types of networking groups that you can join:
- Casual contact networks, which typically involve networking events or industry mixers.
- Knowledge networks, otherwise known as professional associations.
- Strong contact networks: groups that meet often to help build professional relationships.
- Online networks, including professional social media services, such as LinkedIn.
Step 2: Research the people in your networking groups
Sometimes networking requires a bit of extra research. Look up the names of people who are expected to attend a networking event you’re going to, and then search sites, such as LinkedIn, to learn a little bit more about them. Take a look at their profile summaries, and note any new projects or business endeavors they may be working on. People will be impressed with your attention to detail and flattered that you know what they’re up to.
Step 3: When networking, find a common connection
Find commonality, whether it is a mutual friend or colleague, the fact that you went to the same business school, or that you both like to coach soccer on the weekends. Finding common ground can form a basis of mutual interest or agreement that can last a lifetime.
Step 4: Maintain strong relationships
Making new contacts is only half of the equation. What are you doing to maintain the relationship? It’s not good etiquette to ask someone for a favor if you haven’t talked to him or her in a long time. Why not congratulate someone on a job promotion, check in to see what he or she is up to lately, and mention what you are looking for in regards to changing careers or moving forward in your current one. Always make an effort to keep abreast and touch base with your network contacts.
Step 5: Give as much, or more, than you take
Be the person people go to when they need something. Always ask, “How can I help you?” Simple things like introducing someone to an acquaintance you know, virtually introducing each other’s work online, or passing along contact information to a colleague puts you in a good position to ask for a favor when it’s you that needs something.
Step 6: Connect with people beyond your industry
Powerful networkers forage relationships with people who are both in and outside of their industry. Doing this allows you to build a stronger network with diverse social capital and new opportunities, and lets you put your career eggs in more than one basket. Plus, you never know what collaborations between industries might lead to.
Step 7: Form strategic alliances
Remember that the purpose of networking is not to get your contact’s business, but to get business from everyone this person knows. Make sure that you educate your network connections completely about what you do and whom you do it with. Give each other updates, provide encouragement, and become each other’s mentors. Turn to those in your network for ideas, advice, leads, and vendor recommendations. Learn from each other and contribute to each other’s growth.
Step 8: Prioritize your contacts
You should continually re-evaluate and prioritize the people in your network. Aim for an inner circle that you keep in contact with on a regular basis. Remember: don’t burn any bridges. That HR manager who didn’t hire you today might have something come up a year from now that you’re well-suited for, so you’ll want to keep on their good side and in their memory.
With today’s voluminous array of social networks, it’s easier than ever to keep in touch. Take advantage of platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and follow the rules above to become a networking master and make networking work for you.