Networking can help you meet other professionals in your industry who can help you as mentors, references and show you new career opportunities like jobs and industry training. This article will show you how and where to network, how to approach potential contacts and how to maintain these professional relationships.
How to network effectively
Follow these steps to learn how to network by meeting contacts and establishing relationships:
1. First, look for networking events online or by joining professional organizations
To find networking events, you can look at the websites of relevant professional associations, volunteering for like-minded organizations or searching for local networking events on social media.
To interact with professionals in your field more often, you can consider joining the professional organizations and attending their meetings. Networking in person can help you establish rapport with the people you meet.
2. Second, set specific networking goals that you can work toward at each meeting
It’s helpful to set goals so you can leave each networking event feeling accomplished and understanding what to work toward next. If it’s possible, you can research potential attendees in advance, and plan to introduce yourself to particular people. You can also set more general goals, such as introducing yourself to three new people.
Having specific goals for each event can also help you to feel more confident.
3. Third, prepare talking points for relevant topics
Have some topics planned to discuss for every networking opportunity you attend, and tailor them to that audience. Research the people who will be there and which topics or information are likely to be interesting to them.
Preparing ahead of each event will make you feel more confident as well as help you to present yourself well. Create a brief elevator pitch that conveys who you are, where you are in your career and where you are hoping to go next.
4. Then, ask questions of each person you meet
You can come prepared with questions to ask the new people you meet during an event. Ask them about their business or position, how they got to this phase of their career, the challenges they face and where they hope to be in the future.
Try to make a personal connection by relating some of your own experiences. When new contacts feel like you’re genuinely interested in knowing them, they are more likely to stay connected and offer help and advice later.
5. Next, connect with your new contacts on social media
Connect with a new contact on a professional social media platform. Depending on the online culture of your particular sector, you could also connect with a new contact on social media platforms that have a more general purpose. In some industries, people often develop professional brands through these sites.
6. Then, stay up to date in your field of interest
In addition to reading the news, you can consider joining relevant mailing lists and newsletters. Identify some of the important people in your industry, and follow them on social media sites. This will help you see announcements about upcoming networking events and jobs fairs and will give you relevant topics for conversation once you find an event.
7. Next, volunteer where you can make new contacts
Volunteering for a non-profit that works in a field relevant to yours is a great way to gain experience and meet new people with similar interests. Even if you don’t meet valuable career contacts every time you volunteer, it’s a way to feel engaged in your community, meet new friends and spend your free time in a fulfilling way.
8. Then, help your contacts by providing them your time or interesting information
Offering to help someone is one of the best ways to connect and establish rapport. Even if someone is higher than you on the career ladder, you may have access to something that could be helpful to them. You might send them an article about a topic they are interested in learning more about, or connect them with someone who could be helpful to their business.
Think of networking as a two-way relationship, and your contacts will be more likely to want to do something for you in return.
9. Last, build and maintain your relationship with continued contact
Once you have met a new contact, stay in touch with them. Reach out to your contacts periodically, at least every six months or so. You can update them on what you’re doing or send an article that made you think of them.
Try to meet up with professional contacts in person, even if the meeting is casual. Building a genuine relationship will make your professional contacts more meaningful.