Networking is all about developing and maintaining connections with people who share a similar industry to you or who have factors in common such as the university you attended, your gender, race, or age. It is an effective skill to help you develop a mutually beneficial support system and help one another advance each other’s careers.
If done well, and without the intention of exploitation, high-quality networking can lead to the exchange of valuable information, job referrals, and collaboration efforts on projects with people who share a similar passion. This article is a guide on how you can best approach networking opportunities by getting yourself out there, sharing your contact information, and offering support to people who are on a similar path to you.
The science of networking
Networking well takes a lot of skill and, unfortunately, a lot of moments of failure. However, the best method to develop the science of networking is through trial and error, by being prepared, having reasonable expectations, and putting yourself out there. It is believed that the best network is both wide and deep.
Essentially, you want to have enough people in your network to contribute a wide variety of contacts, opportunity and creative insight, however, you also need to develop lasting relationships with people in your network. For example, it will probably be difficult asking for a favour from someone you met once at a university alumni event. However, if you go out to dinner with this person, participate in hobbies that you both share, and perhaps collaborate on a project that you are both passionate about, then you have begun to develop a genuine relationship with someone who can potentially help you in your career.
How to network the right way
Many people approach networking with the wrong attitude and end up disappointed. However, if you know how to approach this valuable skillset, it will serve you well. Forbes argues that you should begin to network before you actually need it. You should have a clear idea of your skills and the connections you can provide and, most importantly, you need to forget your personal agenda. The best networkers actively try to help others rather than exploit them. They recommend always trying to give more than you take, and eventually the opportunities will come to you.
It is important that you are always prepared in any potential networking scenario, whether it is a specific networking event or just someone you meet through a shared acquaintance. It will rarely benefit you just to exchange names, a friendly handshake and the acknowledgment that you both have similar career interests. The best high-end networking strategy is being able to provide your contact information in a convenient or useful way. This is most likely a business card, however, you can also stand out better if you get creative with how you share you contact information, such as by using a personalised pen.
Being prepared with the right tools in a convenient manner demonstrates that you are professional, always organised, and eager to collaborate with the right people. If you do this while actively trying to help people that you are networking with, then you are much more likely to be someone who they will call when they have an opportunity that would interest you.
Do it right, do it smart
High-end networking is really difficult, however, if you are prepared to not only meet new people, but also develop strong relationships built on mutual aid then this skill is likely to help you further your career. Just remember, meet people outside your comfort zone and offer more help than you are asking for.