Building and maintaining a professional network is one of the best things you can do for your career—but according to HubSpot, 25 percent of people don’t network at all. Is it because they don’t see the value…or because they don’t know how to network effectively?
In most cases, people understand the benefits of networking; life just gets in the way. Forty-one percent of current networkers say that they’d love to network more frequently but just can’t find the time. Other reasons include a hesitancy to reach out to others, trouble finding people to network with, and good old-fashioned anxiety about showing up to an unfamiliar event.
But there is some good news. Learning how to network effectively is fairly easy—and not nearly as time-consuming (or intimidating) as it may seem.
1. Adopt the Networking Mindset
Networking isn’t something you do; it’s a mindset you adopt. If you look at it from the perspective of helping others, it’s easier to overcome some of the mental roadblocks you unconsciously put up.
How to adopt the mindset:
- Learn about people in your network. It’s hard to ask for help, but it’s easy to approach people and offer help. Learn as much as possible about the people in your network and be willing to put time and energy into the relationships you create.
- Offer assistance to others, reap the benefits of networking later. Keeping an ear to the ground and preemptively offering assistance and information to others makes it easier for you to reap the benefits of networking when you find yourself in need.
2. Create Your Personal Advisory Board
If the game is on the line and you’re down, who do you want on your team? You probably want people who will:
- Look out for your best interests
- Tell you what you need (but not necessarily want) to hear
- Encourage you to shoot for the stars
- Challenge you and hold you accountable for your goals
These people are your personal advisory board. Often, learning how to network effectively is as easy as identifying these people and creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
There is no rule that everyone on your advisory board needs to be in your professional field. In fact, the more diverse your group, the more helpful it may be, since you’ll have a deeper knowledge and experience base to pull from.
3. Maintain Your Relationships
We’ve all been there: An old friend you haven’t spoken to in years suddenly wants to connect on social media under the guise of “catching up,” only to instantly start pitching wool leggings, weight loss tea, or expensive facial products.
The result? We feel used—and networking works the same way.
To truly enjoy the benefits of networking, you have to maintain that network, both before you need it and afterward. You should always aim to give more than you take. If you only show up for networking events when you stand to gain something, people will notice.
4. Make Time for Face-to-Face Networking
At a time when we spend most of our day staring at a screen, it’s easy to forget that a real world exists outside of our LinkedIn profiles and email inboxes. But making time for face-to-face networking is absolutely necessary. Social media and email are great networking tools, but there’s nothing like a smile and a warm handshake to foster a real connection.
Here are some ways to put yourself out there:
- Schedule a monthly lunch date with people on your personal advisory board
- Have quick check-ins with your mentor over coffee
If you’re a bit short on network connections, here are some ways to bring new contacts into the fold:
- Join a professional association
- Attend work events for your company
It’s no secret that effective networking takes time. We can always find time for the things we make a priority. For career success, networking needs to be a priority.
Make the time. You won’t regret it!
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