Networking is one of the most crucial skills anybody can have. You’ve probably heard it a million times, that professional advancement is as much about who you know as what you know. Anybody can talk casually over drinks, but mastering the art of networking is a step above exchanging business cards.
When done well, networking can open doors of opportunity, whether that’s landing new clients, identifying future coworkers or hires or open the door for future careers.
Here are some tips I’ve compiled to develop a solid network of people who will be in your corner:
Don’t reach out only when you need something
Cultivating relationships takes time. Be patient, and make sure to stay connected to people in an authentic manner. When you ask a person you barely know for a favor, it’s like asking someone to help you move out of your home, but never talking to them. It won’t get you far and it feels disingenuous.
If you see an article or something relevant to one of your peers, send that email or shoot them a text. Let them know they’re on your radar and you’re thinking of them. If it helps, make notes on the back of their business card about a personal story they share or information about their family. A little thought goes a long way.
Quality, not quantity
Cultivating personal connections is personally rewarding, but also yields better results. The goal here isn’t to collect business cards, but to strengthen relationships and make sure you’re connecting with the right people who have a genuine interest in your professional growth and development.
Get outside of your comfort zone
It’s easy to talk to people you already know, because there is comfort in familiarity. It’s human nature to gravitate toward people who live and work in the same place, who share common interests and are at the same point in their lives (I have two babies, so I tend to gravitate to people who also have young children). Challenge yourself to go beyond your norm. I used to work in politics and for a long time socialized with people who shared my views. Martin Waymire is a multi-client agency and after working on a campaign, I got to know some people – one in particular – on the other side of the political aisle. I can honestly say our friendship is genuine and our conversations yield fascinating insight. Her friendship and thoughtfulness is truly appreciated, and I realized I was only limiting myself. So go beyond what you consider normal and if you’re not sure where to start ask some trusted mentors or friends for help facilitating new relationships.
There is nothing more valuable than making sure you have a network of genuine contacts and support. Forging new connections can be worth your time to make sure you’re on somebody’s radar… and stay there.