In all aspects of life it is important that other people like you and trust you. In your social life you may attend gatherings and events in order to gain and retain friends (not to mention that you might find them fun and entertaining!). But just as important as your social relationships are your business relationships. In order to advance your career it is important that your co-workers, managers, and business associates have confidence in you. If they do, you are likely to receive promotions, raises and job offers. If they don’t, you are likely to remain in a dead-end position.
An article that was published on the Washington Post’s website describes the process of building business relationships as “networking.” The act of networking is more complex than throwing your business card in a bowl that is sitting near a cash register at a restaurant. Networking actually consists of making numerous contacts with other professionals in your industry through in-person communication and face-to-face conversations. The goal of networking is to convince others that you are friendly, smart knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Networking is an Acquired Skill
It is widely known that most people do not like speaking on a stage in front of a large audience, which is known as “public speaking.” Likewise, most people do not like the idea of networking because it can be intimidating. It can also be difficult to walk up to a person who you don’t know and introduce yourself. While some people have very out-going personalities, others are shy and introverted. This is why learning how to effectively network is crucial. This type of skill is something that can be mastered over time.
It is Important to Network ALL the Time
Some people do not bother to network when they are feeling comfortable and secure in their careers. But it is important to constantly network. If you have dozens of professional contacts and you lose your job, you will already have many contacts to call for help in finding a new job. Having established professional contacts is essential when an emergency arises. Networking can only help advance a person’s professional potential.
Reasons Why Networking is Crucial
Networking might not be considered fun, but it an important aspect of building your professional repertoire. Imagine what would happen if you lost your job. You would probably immediately start to look for a new one. If you know many professionals within your industry you are likely to obtain several job leads from them by simply asking. You will be “in the know” about many job opportunities that are probably unknown to others. You will have a true advantage if you maintain your business relationships with others.
Tips on How to Effectively Network
There are books, courses and seminars that can be read, taken and attended that provide tips on how to network efficiently. Following is a general overview to take into consideration when networking with professionals in your industry:
Things to Remember:
- Always remain politically correct and don’t say thing that might be taken the wrong way. Never talk politics unless you are absolutely sure that everyone in the group agrees with your opinions!
- Portray yourself as confident, self-assured and smart. Don’t underestimate yourself or give the impression that you have self-doubt about your professional abilities.
- Always make eye contact with everyone in your group.
- Bring up your professional strengths during conversations.
- Don’t drink too much at professional social gatherings because this will leave a bad impression.
- If you make plans to get together with someone you meet at a networking event, make sure to follow up with a phone call or an e-mail within 48 hours.
- Pay attention during your networking conversations and ask appropriate questions regarding your acquaintances’ professions and specific jobs.
- You don’t have to become best friends with the people you meet through professional networking, but maintaining a friendly relationship with them is expected.
- At social networking events, don’t sit by yourself a table or bar and wait for others to come to you. Make a point of introducing yourself to people.
- Use social networking sites such as LinkedIn to promote yourself, but do not use websites like Facebook to make inappropriate posts. You never know who is going to see your “status!”
Try to Have Fun While Networking!
Networking can either be enjoyable or not pleasant. It is much more fun when it falls into the enjoyable category. Eventually, after you become skilled at networking, you will feel relaxed and will be able to enjoy yourself while you are building professional relationships. The website HelpGuide.org says “When you network, you should slow down, be present, and try to enjoy the process.” Just because you are technically working while you are networking does not mean that you can’t have a good time in the process!
Written by Melanie Fischer, Career & Job Expert who has been writing professionally for over 10 years.