In most careers, you can’t get by unless you have at least some knowledge about networking.
But, what is networking? How do you go about it, and how do you make it easier?
Most importantly, why is it so essential to business?
Let’s find out.
What Is Networking, and Why Should You Do It?
If you cringe when you hear the word “networking,” you’re thinking about it the wrong way.
A good networking definition: The act of growing and nurturing your personal network.
To many people, this sounds like pulling teeth, but building a professional network doesn’t have to be an ordeal. Instead, it can be a fun and rewarding way to make valuable connections.
What is a network?
Think of it as a web of connections in your professional life. As you reach out to people in your field or industry, build relationships, and create rapport, your network grows.
Best of all, the people in your network will support you in your career, and you can rely on them when you need a reference, a recommendation, or just someone to talk shop with.
That’s what networking is at its core: Building mutually beneficial, professional relationships with colleagues to create a solid network that helps everyone involved with their career goals.
6 Tips to Make Networking Easier
If you’re introverted, shy, or just don’t know how to go about creating a network, this part of business can seem daunting.
Don’t worry, though – there are some tricks out there that will help you build professional connections naturally.
1. Attend Networking Events
You just got an invitation to yet another mixer, conference, or networking cocktail hour. Instead of dragging your feet or dismissing the event outright, just buck up and go.
Why? First of all, at networking events, everybody attends with the same goal: to network! This takes the pressure off because you know you’re all in the same boat. Everyone feels equally awkward, which is a great ice-breaker.
Attending this type of event will also help you collect a ton of business cards in very little time, which is much, much easier than cold-calling people you’re interested in.
2. Show Up Early
When you attend networking events, don’t show up late – arrive early. This is a great strategy Entrepreneur recommends. It’s an especially good tip if you’re nervous about going in the first place.
Arriving at an event early means it will be quieter. Not everyone will have made introductions or found a conversation to engage in, yet, which gives you more openings.
Since not everyone will have arrived or found a group, you’ll have a better chance of meeting people with less pressure.
3. Focus on Being Friendly and Genuine
Yes, the point of networking is to get professional contacts on your side, but you must always remember that people are looking for something from you, too.
To make solid connections, focus on being friendly and genuine first, and leave your sales pitch for later.
4. Follow Up on Connections
To build a reliable network, you must follow up on all promising connections you make.
If you’re able to get someone’s business card or contact information, follow up on the conversation you had with a friendly email to keep the ball rolling in the right direction.
5. Use Social Media
If networking events aren’t your thing, you can always depend on social media to build your network virtually.
Find and follow potential contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other networks, and engage with them by liking, sharing, and commenting on their posts.
Social Media Examiner specifically recommends LinkedIn for this process – they say it’s “tailor-made for professional networking.” In particular, they advise joining LinkedIn groups as a perfect way to get in touch with influencers in your industry.
As you build up rapport through social media, your potential contacts will usually follow you back. Eventually, if you’re both local, you can meet up for coffee or lunch. If you’re not co-located, you can plan to attend the same conference, meet-up, or big networking event.
If there’s no chance for a meet-up in the near future, fire off an email or direct message about a topic of mutual interest to deepen the relationship.
Remember, the relationship will be useless for both parties’ business goals unless you strive to build it up.
Business Networks Are Essential for Getting Ahead
What’s the difference between a lone wolf and a person with a solid network in business?
One of them will have an easier time getting ahead and meeting their goals. This is because they have people in their corner who will not only offer a helping hand but also provide advice and a little cheerleading on the side.
Business relationships are career friendships that can take you far if you invest your time in building them. Don’t neglect this piece of the puzzle and you may find yourself climbing the success ladder faster.