Networking Know-How: 8 Tips for Successful Networking
Using You Social Skills to Your Career Advantage
Ancient Wisdom says: “… without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” KVJ
Networking is essential in today’s world if you want to find a job and access the hidden job markets, or if you are interested in advancing in your career, according to about.com, 60 percent of jobs are found by formal and informal networking. Cultivating a strong professional network helps you to get promoted and stand apart in an increasingly competitive world. As the old saying goes, “it’s not what you know, but who you know, that counts.” However, for this maxim, skill and knowledge still remain true for career and job success.
According to Bill Bernett, Harvard Business Review, networking is the paved path to success in your career. Remember, you already know more people than you think. The truth is, you are already networking every day, whether you know it or not. It’s the theory of “six degrees of separation,” which states that everyone is linked together by six other links–this is what makes networking work.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to build a network or is confident in networking situations. If networking does not come naturally to you or if you simply don’t know where to start in terms of building and maintaining professional contacts, you can take charge of your career. Networking is about connecting with the right people forming the right kinds of relationships by talking to friends and relatives that can be helpful in your professional life.
Here are some tips to be successful at both:
Join professional and community organizations in your industry. Being a part of professional organizations is a great way to expand your network and connect with the right people. Local networking groups include your local chamber of commerce service organizations.
Some examples include:
- Lions Club International
- Kiwanis International
- Rotary Club International
- National Business and Professional Women’s Clubs
- Zonta Club
- The Pilot Club International
How do you decide which organization is right? Business blogger Marissa Levin suggests that you think strategically about attending specific events and joining certain organizations. It is important to analyze your objectives in terms of maximization and scheduling. She asks readers to consider the opportunity cost to attend these events and reminds us that our time is valuable and the allocation of that time is either an expense or investment–so we must use it wisely.
In networking you must think in terms of what you want to accomplish–enlarge your social circle, make personal connections, meet specific people and lead generations. When making your decisions about joining, Levin reminds us to consider fees and expenses that are associated with these activities, such as breakfasts and conferences etc. When it comes time to determine if you are going to join or not outline your objectives, expectations and pick quality organizations.
Look at whether a particular organization and the makeup of its membership can help you get to where you want to go. To help make that determination, ask yourself some of the questions below:
- Are they from different industries in the business community?
- What position do they hold at work?
- What is the size of, and what does the membership’s companies do and provide?
- Does this networking organization offer “Professional Development” such as courses, annual conferences, workshops, publications and newsletters.
- Does the networking organization offer mentoring, member job postings or educational scholarships?
- Are there Member-only benefits like use of a membership directory?
Mentors and experts recommend talking to others who already belong to the organization you are considering. Ask your successful business associates what they belong to and participate in. Most organizations will let you visit two times before you must join. Once you’ve joined, the two most important skills to have are asking questions and listening. Networking, is the one time it is appropriate to talk to strangers!
After meeting people, always follow up with an e-mail, however, it is paramount that you make sure there are no grammatical or spelling errors in your comments. Remember, your communication both verbal and written are foreshadowing through your expression – the quality of your work skill set. Always follow standard business etiquette. Face to face meetings are still the best way to network. If nothing else you will be making new friends who are most likely only links of separation from the person or people you need to meet.
Get Involved with Charities
Get involved with charitable opportunities in your field. If you do not have a lot of background or experience, charity work can be a great way to get your foot in the door, get your name out there and meet people who can help you break into your desired industry.
Here are some examples of charities that businesses support and you can get involved in.
- Make a Wish Foundation – This organization grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
- Toys for Tots -This Marine Corps Reserve Organization collects and distributes toys to lower income children.
- The Boys and Girls Club – This is a national organization that provides after-school programs to help young adults.
- The United Way – This non-profit organization helps people in their own communities.
When you are networking, you want to meet people you are truly connected to in positions that you are interested in. Avoid cultivating relationships with those who you don’t feel comfortable with, just for the sake of advancing, as it can be easy for people to see when they are being used for your advancement. This strategy can end up backfiring.
When networking one must broadly use effective and targeted communication to build opportunities by being a good listener, reading and using body language clues, as well as, managing your emotions and stress levels.
In other words, don’t be afraid to laugh. Be genuine in your relationships and your networking situations. Start by evaluating your personal network and where you want to go from there. Above all, be strategic – use your network contacts productively, by making sure to prioritize, schedule, reciprocate, and nurture your mutual network relationships. To help you do that browse these great sample networking letters covering everything from referrals to thank you notes.
Take Advantage of Social Media
While networking online cannot replace in-person and local networking, you can still use resources such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Take a look at networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, GlassDoor and Twitter. If you are in Europe or Latin America check out Viadeo and BranchOut to expand your professional circle and keep in touch with contacts. Use this great resource to find the best Internet sites.
Below are the 10 best business networking sites as rated by viewers of the website:
1) LinkedIn – the world’s largest professional, social networking website.
2) PerfectBusiness.com – a website that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses.
3) Entrepreneurconnect – a website for other entrepreneurs to share their ideas.
4) Ryze – a free business networking site
5) Partner Up – a social networking site used by small business and entrepreneurs.
6) EFactor – The largest network of entrepreneurs.
7) StartupNation – Provides advice to people who want to start their business.
8) FastPitch – This website connects employees, friends and future bosses together.
9) Go Big network – Helps businesses find investors and funding.
10) Biznik – a social networking site for small business that will publish your articles and members can rate them.
For even more networking sites check out this video.
Seek Out a Mentor
A mentor is usually, someone successful from work/business, an industry, or the community that goes beyond just someone in your network. He or she is a person who helps you shape your career path. A mentor can provide you with guidance on important workplace decisions, give you advice on moving your career forward and introduce you to people who can open doors for you. Mentors should be a person who guides you and offers advice, ask questions, is trustworthy and is there when you need them.
Become a Board Member
Consider joining a board of directors for a charity, nonprofit or other organization. Joining a corporate or company board in your industry is one of the best options for meeting people, but you may need to work up to this goal and get yourself known first.
Working on a board can be challenging. It will help you develop your people skills, as it requires you to work co-operatively, as well as, be a self-starter. It can be very gratifying when you see the accomplishments you can achieve while making connections and honing your skill set, while others watch you in action.
Give and Take
Networking involves give and take. This is true whether you are in a mentor relationship or making connections with peers in your industry. You don’t want to continually ask for favors without giving anything back, as people will be less inclined to help you or want to continue to connect with you on a personal or professional level. You can help by lending a hand to help build someones personal brands. You can recommend them on your websites, such as LinkedIn and add them to your Facebook friends. You can blog about them, and also write about them in an article or newsletter.
Give It Time
You cannot expect to bond with everyone in your industry instantly and build a strong professional network immediately. Strive to be patient, generous, and hard-working and make a good impression each time you meet people in your professional network. Over time, you will form relationships naturally that don’t feel forced and that can inspire those in your network to help and look out for you.
In an interesting article by Forbes, the question is asked, “do women tend to form better business relationships with women as opposed to men?” The quick answer … women tend to be more concerned about being practical, and forming personal bonds when networking. They may ask, what can I do for this person to get what I want, when a man may think, “who do I know that has what I need and they ask for it right then.”
As with anything:
“You can do as much as you think you can, but you’ll never accomplish more;
If you’re afraid of yourself, young man, there’s little for you in store.
For failure comes from the inside first, It’s there if we only knew it, and you can win, though you face the worst,
If you just think you’re goin to do it.
-Edgar A. Guest from “A Ways o ‘Livin’”The Reilly & Lee Co.
Building networking relationships can be fun and very rewarding by meeting and getting toknow people and staying informed. After all you already do it every day. While Networking requires dedication, it will help you stay on top of what’s happening by staying current. These networking tips will help you form a solid network that makes career advancement a real possibility and helps you to find the job of your dreams. For a List of Professional Networking Meetings with over 900,000 members, 1,000 cities, and meeting in 60 countries, check out Meet Up’s list of all professional networkingmeet-ups.
Job Listings Sites
- Why Men are Stronger in Professional Networks than Woman, by The Ladders.com (a job matching service)
- Six Unique Traits Business Owners Look for In Potential Featured Posts New Hires, by Blogger, Marissa Levin, Successfulculture.com
- Biz Resources, by Joe Malinowskiof Business Networking Life.com
- Why Men Don’t Mentor Young Women and How We Can Change That,by DailyMuse, (job search advice)
- Common LinkedIn-Mistakes When Networking, by Jobs.aol.com
- Largest and Newest Meet-up Groups, by Networkmarket.meetup.com
- How to Network Effectively, by American University, Washington D.C.
- 10 Ways to Organize your Home and Office, by How Stuff Works
- Effective Networking for Busy People, by About.com
- Do You Make your First Impression, Your Best Impression?, by Foxbusiness.com
- Relationships-Building Networking, by Berkeley HR, University of California, Berkeley
- Never Send Connections/Invitations LinkedIn Secrets-Part 2, by Michael Surkan, YouTube
- 5 Tips to Write a Compelling LinkedIn Summary, by Jerry Nihen, YouTube
- How to Get a Job Using LinkedIn, by Careersiteadvisor, YouTube
- Networking Today, by Master’s Degree Online.org
- This Networking Course, by iTunes
- The Art of Networking DVD, by Diane Darling, Effective Networking Inc.
Free Courses Guide Site
- The Speak for Success Course,by About.com
- Organize Your Small or Home Office Course, by About.com
- The Small Business Makeover Course, by About.com