You know you should be networking to advance your career. Where to start? It’s easy. Here are 10 tips on how to expand your network.
We recently talked about the importance of networking and why it’s an essential element of career success. But a lot of people hate networking. They don’t like leaving the house and meeting new people, and they particularly dislike the idea of “schmoozing” to advance their careers.
But networking doesn’t have to be forced or fake. It’s better to think of it as getting out into the world and just getting to know people. If you set aside the idea of only meeting people for the purpose of direct career or financial gain, and try to think of it as enhancing your personal life and meeting good people, it’s a lot more palatable. People are interesting and smart, and fun. And meeting them should be all those things. So, if it leads to a super cool, well-paying job, bonus, right?
Networking doesn’t have to be difficult either. It’s actually really easy to meet people. Here’s how.
1. Connect on social media
Obviously, this is a top strategy and also the easiest one. Reach out to people on all kinds of social media platforms – not just LinkedIn – who are in the same industry as you and who seem interesting. Say hi. Make friends.
2. Don’t limit yourself to one industry or job sector
Don’t just stick to your own industry or people who do the same job as you. You never know who someone knows and what they might hear about at their company or through a friend. Make a lot of acquaintances, rather than going for all close friends. If you limit your interactions to close friends, you miss out on the opportunities and information outside your echo chamber.
3. Get out of the house
It’s not what everyone wants to hear, but you have to leave the house if you want to meet people. You can’t only meet people online. Your network should also include real live people that you have met in person. So, even if you’re not the type who likes to get out there, do it. Accept invitations, and meet friends and acquaintances for coffee and drinks. When we can, that is, and once all COVID restrictions have been lifted and the risk is significantly lower.
4. Attend events
Find events and go to them. Find industry events and charity events, online and in real life (again, when we can). Figure out where you might meet smart and interesting people, and go there. Ask friends to invite you to places.
5. Start and join conversations
It can be hard for some people to overcome shyness but it’s actually easy to strike up a conversation with someone or join an existing group, and most people will be happy to talk to you. For a list of conversation starters, check out this article.
6. Listen more than you talk
Don’t blather on about yourself or just blurt out whatever’s on your mind. When talking to new people, ask them questions about themselves and their interests, then sit back and listen. People love to be listened to and will think you’re wonderful.
7. Be helpful
If you have the opportunity to help someone, do so. If someone asks for information you have, share it. There is a favour you can do, do it. People will be grateful and will remember you and want to reciprocate.
8. Ask for advice and favours
Seriously. Ask people for advice and favours – small ones. Benjamin Franklin postulated that someone who has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another. Research seems to support the idea and it’s been theorized that it’s because “we justify our actions to ourselves by assuming that we did the person a favour because we like them.” And, when you ask people for advice, they assume you’re smart for respecting their opinion.
9. Follow up with people you meet
When you meet someone get their contact information or connect on social media. Then follow up and say “It was great meeting you. Hope to see you again and let’s stay in touch!” Or whatever. If you’ve promised to send them some information or help with a little problem, that’s an even better reason to reach out.
10. Stay connected with your existing network
Relationships don’t maintain themselves. You have to put in the work and stay connected with people, even when you don’t need anything from Stay in touch with the people you already know. If you haven’t spoken to someone in a while, call them or send a message and say hello. Set time aside to do this regularly. them. Nobody wants to hear from you only when you want something.
See? It’s easy. And obvious. Not rocket science, as they say.
Try to make one new connection a week and reach out to three friends a week just to check in and say hello. It only has to take a few minutes, and the benefits to your personal life and professional life will speak for themselves.
What’s that you say? You’re an introvert? We’ve got networking tips for introverts here.