Networking for Personal and Professional Growth
By: Katelyn Foehner
Communications Manager, Big Buzz Idea Group
Admit it, you know how important networking is but you dread it. Consequently, networking isn’t at the top of anyone’s to-do list; it can be awkward and time-consuming, yet incredibly rewarding. While we all may not have a natural passion for it, namely the introverts who dislike social interaction, here’s why it is time to change your perspective.
What is networking? Networking is not solely for exchanging information with people and it certainly is not about begging for favors. Networking is about forming and nurturing long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with certain people you meet. These connections can be anyone you encounter, whether you’re attending a work conference, grabbing your morning coffee or mingling at a networking event. In fact, the next time you’re out in public put your phone down and you’ll see that networking opportunities are everywhere.
How to network effectively. Have you ever attended a networking event and encountered the business card pusher? This is the person who pushes their business card onto everyone because they think they’re at the event to sell themselves or their company. But that’s not effective networking. In order to build your network, you should show a genuine interest in other people. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone else questions about them and their job. But you don’t want to overdo it. Try and find a balance between asking questions and sharing information about yourself. Practice makes perfect, the more networking events you go to, the easier this becomes.
The importance of networking. According to experts, the most connected people are often the most successful. Investing in your relationships can pay you back throughout your career. Networking helps you stay up to date with the latest trends in your industry, stay connected with the job market, develop and strengthen your skills and most importantly, meet potential partners or clients. You may not know how valuable these people will be in your career or where the intersections will come from but trust me, they will prove invaluable in the long run. Even if it doesn’t directly affect your business, at some point you’ll meet someone, and you’ll suddenly remember a contact from a prior event who could be a perfect partner for this new contact. Make the introduction and you’ll be everybody’s hero. And they’ll work to find new partners for you.
Follow Up. Once you’ve mastered the easiest part about networking (attending the event), the hardest part comes next. You must follow up on these new connections. And adding them as a connection on LinkedIn doesn’t cut it. Someone once told me to write down on the back of the business card where you met the person and something you discussed. That way when you follow up with them, it is more genuine. I recommend following up for a one-on-one to get to know one another better. It’s vital to keep your connections well cultivated.
No matter what stage of your career you’re in, whether you’re looking for a new job or looking to expand your professional contacts, networking is always a useful tool. The key to networking is following up and maintaining your newfound connections.