Anyone within the professional world can attest to the importance of networking when it comes to career advancement. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 85 percent of jobs are secured through networking. While your methods may vary depending on the career or path you choose, it’s vital to follow some basic best practices to ensure you’re successful in your efforts. Here are some dos and don’ts you should keep in mind to make networking easier.
Here’s what you should do:
- Get Involved Through Social Media
Social media is a great way to start networking. According to Bill Gates, “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” The people you meet through social media platforms, like LinkedIn or Facebook, can be of direct assistance. They can hire you or act as a reference to help you find what you are looking for.
Social media allows you to extend your network, this can create interests for you to follow a certain career or path. Having a larger network is a great source of letting you know when a new opportunity arises before it becomes public. Joining groups relevant to your social or professional interests is another great way to connect with people of similar backgrounds or future interests, in turn expanding your network further.
- Network with a Purpose
What are the benefits you are hoping to achieve? Networking has proven to be a valuable tool, but it’s also important to focus on building the right relationships. To accomplish this, you must actively and strategically plan using the 5 W’s: who, what, where, when, and why.
Networks exist when there is a mutual value in the connection. If you do not understand your role and how the other person benefits, it may result in a poor network. Be clear on why you want to build your network and what you are hoping to receive from it.
- Form Meaningful Connections
Networking shouldn’t just be one-sided. Building genuine relationships will form a more meaningful connection. Ask questions and be curious about the people you are networking with. Learn their goals and aspirations. When forming your questions, dig deeper. Try not to ask standard questions. Listen more, it is less about you and selling yourself and more about taking an interest in them in order to establish a solid foundation. The goal is to create strong, long-lasting relationships.
- Ask leaders in your desired space to act as a mentor to you
Mentorship is guidance provided by your senior or high-performing colleagues. The advantage of having a mentor is access to existing knowledge, skills, and experience. This networking approach is to build a relationship designed to increase your confidence and support your career development. There are a few things you should keep in mind when requesting someone to mentor you. A successful mentor-mentee relationship is built upon specific factors which include trust and respect, open and honest communication, flexibility and understanding of new perspectives, and perseverance. A mentorship is more than just receiving career advice, it’s about creating a mutually respectful relationship with your mentor.
The benefits of a mentorship to you, the mentee, is bringing greater awareness of other ways you can approach your work. This will also build your network of colleagues with increased knowledge. The mentor also benefits by accelerating the growth and development of individuals with advanced potential within the organization.
Avoid these networking mistakes:
Don’t Be Afraid of Putting Yourself Out There
In order to be successful in your networking efforts, you must remove the fear of stepping out of your comfort zone. Putting yourself out there can be very challenging. Just remember that when you do, you are building social skills and confidence that will last. As you network, you will gain new perspectives that will help you grow and overall benefit you in the long run. A strong network of professional connections will give you the assurance that someone within your network will be able to answer even the toughest questions.
Forgetting to Follow Up
Following up after a networking event is not only polite etiquette, but also a great way to continue the conversation by thanking them, asking for advice, insight, or knowledge you have gained through the interaction. Keeping in touch retains the connections you are building. Start drafting the messages and communications you are going to use when reaching out to people. Whether it is through email or mailing handwritten cards, recap things you have previously discussed with them. Simply connecting with someone on LinkedIn is not enough to leave an impression.
Ignoring Consistency and Diversity
Networking is something you want to do often and with many people or groups. If you only network when you need it, you are not getting the most out of it. Consistency is key and can help give you clarity about what interests you, what is possible, and can show you other paths within your current career.
Additionally, it’s important to expand and diversify your network to other opinions and mindsets. Only involving yourself in one group limits your learning and growth potential. By recognizing the need for diversity, you will begin to see different perspectives, allowing yourself to consider beyond what you’ve maybe always thought to be “the right way” or path.
SkillStorm is here to help.
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