Social media tools such as LinkedIn and Facebook are great starting points when it comes to networking. However, career networking in real life can be more effective and provide greater value in connecting – and staying connected – with people who are important to your career.
Do you struggle with career networking in real life? You’re not alone. Many of us are not natural networkers, and feel uncomfortable making connections especially when we’re not online. But there are ways of approaching networking that can make the task easier, even if you’re a diehard introvert.
How to make career networking easier
Networking can be learned, and you can improve your skills. Although it may be hard to start with it, networking becomes easier the more you practice (and that means doing it in real life, and not just reading about it!) and the more benefit you get from it.
If you dread going to formal career networking events, where all you end up with is a colourful collection of business cards and indigestion from the canapés, you’ll be pleased to know that you can develop and maintain your professional network by other means. For example, by catching up with people over coffee and staying in contact via email.
The value that you get from job networking is dependent on how much effort you put into it, not what you take out of it. Networking, at its heart, should be about what you can give to others – in return you receive gratitude and benefits. What can you ‘give’?
Providing networking value
Here are some suggestions for incorporating value into your real world career network.
Stay in touch
Contact people by email, phone or letter and say ‘hello’. Making the effort to connect and stay in touch isn’t about asking for something, it’s a chance to be friendly, kind and thoughtful. Try it – you may be surprised at the response you get.
Listen to and remember (write them down if you have a poor memory) the personal details people share with you. It can feel good when someone remembers about you, so include some of those things they told you when you connect again. “Did you enjoy your holiday on the Sunshine Coast?” Another benefit is you can remember what is important to them and things they’re interested, giving you the chance to share with them information and resources you come across.
Offer to help
Be a helpful contact. Offering to help may not result in immediate or direct benefits, but can accrue you long-term value within your network.
Show your appreciation. Thank people for their help, for example if they provide you with advice, put you in contact with someone or provide a reference. If someone gives you something, update them on what happened and let them know how they helped.
Introduce your contacts to each other. This can benefit two people without the expectation of something in return.
Pass on praise
When you are impressed with or value something someone did, let them know. For example: “I really liked your article on networking. It was very useful at pointing out different ways to make contact with people. Thank you.”
So where to start?
- Develop a list of people to get in contact with and stay in touch with.
- Practice networking.
- Keep on career networking in real life. The more value and effort you put in, the more value you will get out!