You’ve likely been told that networking is the key to find more opportunities. The term “networking” has become so overused that it’s hard to know what it means and why it’s valuable. How many times when you’ve handed someone your business card in passing has it resulted in a genuinely valuable opportunity? Perhaps a few, but not nearly enough compared to a deep relationship-building networking process.
So how can we redefine networking to help your professional growth? Read on for your guide to networking that will assist you in concrete gains in your work life.
Regardless of what your definition of networking is, let’s take some time to define it in a way that results in concrete outcomes. Now is the time to ditch the idea that cold calls and business card exchanges represent all of the networking. Instead, think about it as a way to make professional friends who will do something for you or advocate for you.
Networking as making friends
Have you ever heard the idea that 80% of the job search is networking? This doesn’t mean that 80% of the time should be spent on the hunt for new people to meet. Think about networking in terms of quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter how many connections you have if they will not result in anything.
This is where the idea of friendship comes in. Test out what it would be like to change your networking skills to your friendship-making skills. Instead of trying your hardest to impress someone with your resume, focus more on being personable and a good listener. This will go a long way to make a lasting impression.
Types of networking
You can network with strong or weak connections. Networking with close friends and family can produce incredible opportunities for you. Weaker links may lead to opportunities that those in your inner circle do not have access to. When networking, be sure to think about each of these points:
- Just because they are your friends and family doesn’t mean they cannot be helpful professional connections for you. Even if you don’t think it will lead anywhere, there is no harm in asking someone close to you if they know of anyone in a particular field.
- Asking former and current colleagues about who they know in your industry will help you form new connections. Make an effort to stay in touch with colleagues even after you leave a job because of this. Without a genuine relationship, making this ask will come across as somewhat fake.
- People connected to your communities can become essential to your professional network. Look into every academic or other community you have been involved in. These institutions all have alumni who may be happy to help answer questions and mentor professionals.
- Lastly, there is the cold outreach method. This one might be the most intimidating. But we will break down how to tackle this later. Cold outreach does result in helpful networking opportunities. You just need to know how to stand out.
Tackling the professional date
Have you ever been given the opportunity to go for coffee or tea with someone who could help you professionally? If so, you must be prepared for this encounter and squeeze every ounce of essential knowledge from this person. Review these tips for a successful professional date.
- If you know your professional objectives, state them clearly. For instance, say something like the following: I am seeking a marketing position at a public relations firm in the entertainment industry. This is clear and confidently spoken as opposed to something like this: I think I want to be in public relations. I don’t know, but maybe a marketing position. I love the entertainment industry!
- If you don’t know what you want to do for work, that’s okay. Just be sure not to expect the person you’re meeting to tell you what is best for you. Ask for their thoughts on your ideas, not to directly answer which career shift is the perfect one for you.
- Research as much as you can before you meet with them. If you spend the hour asking questions that you could have looked up on the internet, the person might get annoyed and feel this was a waste of time. This allows for more liberty to focus on their opinions and knowledge that you can’t find or understand online.
How to approach cold outreach
It can be intimidating to reach out to someone you don’t know when job searching. But it can be beneficial to create new connections and stand out as an ideal candidate. Instead of a bland and generic email, get prepared with these tips:
- Do your research. And no, this doesn’t mean only to check out a company’s LinkedIn page. Search on social media platforms and the company website to see what they’ve been up to recently. Also, look for articles or press releases written about the company.
- Be sure to mention something that attracted you to the organisation, like a new store opening or a new contract deal in your email.
- Then, state that you would like to work for said company in an exciting and unique way. For instance: I imagine you all must be gearing up for hiring after your new store opening. I’m highly motivated to work for the best in such a competitive field.
Networking is about building relationships. If you follow these guidelines and boost yourself with a shot of self-confidence, you’ll make the most out of it!