A strong professional network can get you to heights you can only dream of reaching on your own. Often, people shy away from networking because they feel like it’s using people to get ahead.
When done right, networking will not only help you, but you can also provide something of value to others.
Try these seven secrets to building your professional network. Who knows — you just might find that you begin to look forward to networking opportunities.
1. Take Notes
When you find yourself in networking situations, make sure you get business cards. Once you’ve collected their cards, take some time immediately after your conversation to jot down some notes on the back.
Some things worth noting are how you think they can help you, the main thing that you talked about, and what common ground you established.
You might also want to rate them according to how beneficial it would be to make a connection with them. Include any strategies you’ve thought up on how to create a strong relationship with them.
2. Have More Fun
This might seem like a no brainer, but you can’t expand your network from inside your house.
The best way to expand your social circle is through new experiences. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try something out of your ordinary routine.
When you attend these new functions or go to a new area, chances are that you won’t know that many people. The point is to meet new ones. So, you’ll have to jump into a conversation to make it happen.
This includes online and offline. You have to get yourself out there in online social settings as well. Don’t be afraid to message a potential business connection on LinkedIn or Facebook to get the ball rolling.
Try finding an activity that others in your industry will be likely to attend and become a regular at those events.
3. Do Your Research
In order to have something to talk about and connect on, it’s best to be in the know. Before you reach out, do some research on industry news and get the scoop on the big dogs in your industry.
When you know which people you will be likely to meet at a function, do your research on them.
Do you have any mutual connections? What are their passions and hobbies?
You can find out what a person is all about through their online presence (personal website, business page, social profiles, and any featured articles of them).
If you find new, unexpected individuals you would like to follow up with at an event, make sure you get their contact info. Then research some of the topics you discussed with them so that you can continue the conversation later more in-depth.
4. Strive to Be Genuine
People can usually pick up on it when you aren’t genuine. Don’t make the conversation all about you. Listen as much as — or more — than you talk.
Be curious about the other person. Ask them more about what they told you. The more you know about them, the better you can connect.
Ted Rubin once said: “Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.” Engage your relationships in real conversation.
You should also help your connections connect with each other. That way, everyone benefits. When you give more than you ask, you’ll find that you will rarely have to ask.
And preferably before you ask for anything, make sure you do something for them.
5. Make Your Network Diverse
Often we make the mistake of thinking that when we make connections, we want to strive to network with someone higher on the ladder. But you don’t always have to network up.
Beginners have much to offer and are often more willing to help. They can see things with fresh eyes and new ideas.
You also don’t have to stick to those directly related to your industry. Some professionals outside your trade can still help you in your career.
When you reach out to different people, they connect you to a new social cluster with more opportunities to network.
It’s also a mistake to only network with those who can benefit you. Give to those who have nothing to return. You never know what their future holds.
They may be a future powerful connection, and they will remember you as someone who was there from the beginning.
6. Follow Up
After you have met a person that you want to add to your professional network, you must follow up. You won’t keep in touch unless you schedule it right away.
Be thinking of a follow up at your first initial contact. When you do follow up, respect their time, and be brief.
Be sure to invite them to more networking events and keep a steady flow of communication without being overbearing.
7. Stand Out in a Crowd
Sometimes all it takes to make a connection is for you to be different from the norm. This is why it’s great to join a group where you are different, like a man in a women’s group. You’ll undoubtedly attract notice, and many people will approach you.
Another way to stand out in a crowd is to use a wingman. If you have a business partner or a very charismatic friend, you can create a dynamic duo.
It’s also smart to take advantage of events that you would thrive in. If you feel more relaxed in a particular setting — you’re more likely to be approachable.
Your online presence is also essential to make unforgettable. Take the time to make your profile online unique.
This includes a great headshot, persuasive language, and creative style. Try to highlight your best aspect without sounding like you’re tooting your own horn.
When you are starting out, connecting with people may be hard, but the big takeaway is this — be genuine.
When you are honest and upfront about your passion, and you know how to listen and engage the other person, networking will come naturally.
About the Author
Ryan Sundling is a Group Marketing Manager at Cardinal Group Management. He has over ten years of experience in the conventional housing industry and works with 5151 Downtown Littleton on a daily basis to help them with their marketing efforts.