10 Ways to Take Business Networking to the Next Level

John Krautzel
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Whether you're currently employed in a job you love or seeking the next big thing, networking should be a normal part of your routine. Networking exposes you to professionals who can help you enhance your current career or launch a new one. It also provides an opportunity for you to learn from others in your industry while sharing your own knowledge and expertise. Learn how you can take your networking to the next level with these tried-and-true strategies.

1. Learn How to Network

Many professionals view networking as work, and therein lies the problem. Networking should be about building relationships that are inspiring, beneficial and motivating. Don't consider it a chore to meet people who can help you learn more about your field or increase your job opportunities. Instead, change your mindset and take the word "working" out of the mix, recommends Entrepreneur magazine. The best way to network is to build genuine relationships rather than just pass your business card out at an event. Treat professionals you meet as potential friends instead of simply business contacts.

2. Assess Your Current Network

You encounter people every day while working, socializing or and running errands. Tap into these markets to create a list of friends, former colleagues and family members who work within your field. Strengthen these relationships by trading war stories, and keep these people updated on your job status and your career goals.

3. Close the Computer

Although a computer is a great resource for networking with professionals, it should not be your sole method of interacting with people in your industry. Schedule lunch dates with former colleagues and supervisors, arrange a happy hour with friends who are currently employed at companies you are researching, and grab a cup of coffee with a professional you met at a networking event. Face-to-face interaction gives you the opportunity to let people know you are seeking work or progressing within your current job.

4. Join Professional Organizations

A membership with an organization that represents your field is not just for show. While your membership alone might impress potential employers, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage by failing to utilize all its benefits. Attend seminars and workshops sponsored by the organization, join groups and forums to learn about innovative developments in the field, and access member-only resources online. You can also use your membership to meet like-minded professionals who can offer you guidance or a career boost.

5. Set Goals

A networking strategy is not effective unless you set goals. Attending a networking luncheon might offer minor benefits, but actively participating and setting goals to achieve at the event helps you take full advantage of the situation. Set goals you can achieve each time you step out to network. For example, when attending a luncheon, strive to obtain five business cards from people you meet. This goal can motivate you to introduce yourself to more people in the room.

6. Take a Proactive Approach

Networking involves more than just showing up at a town meeting or social hour. You have to be proactive to take your networking to the next level. Start conversations with people you don't know who are at the event, or seek out individuals you know online but haven't yet met in person. Demonstrate sincere interest in what these people have to say. You don't have to be the life of the party, but you should avoid shying away from the crowd.

7. Digitize Your Contacts

There is nothing worse than misplacing a business card you received at a networking event, especially if you developed a solid rapport with that individual. Networking involves more than just making a good impression at the initial meeting: Following up is what helps you develop a lasting relationship. As soon as you receive a business card or contact information, add it to a spreadsheet or input the information into your mobile device for easy access. Set reminders on your phone to contact professionals on a regular basis, so you can establish a habit of reaching out and following up.

8. Elevate Your Elevator Pitch

Every professional should have an elevator pitch ready for delivery at any time. However, whether you are employed or unemployed, you should revise this pitch periodically. Add information about the tasks you perform on the job or recognition you have received. Include your affiliations with local organizations or professional associations. Update your elevator pitch as you update your resume, so you are consistently providing new contacts with your most current information.

9. Mind Your Manners

It is no secret that your first impression is important. In fact, it can make or break opportunities and professional relationships. Evaluate how you communicate with people in your field. Practice your introduction in front of a mirror to assess your body language. Eliminate any arrogant or intimidating gestures or phrases from your pitch. The key to a successful first impression is to let the best of your personality shine without losing your professional touch.

10. Build an Online Presence

Build your professional brand by creating profiles on social media platforms. When networking, you can refer your new contacts to your profiles and stay in contact via LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Many professionals also opt to create websites or blogs where they can position themselves as experts within their fields. Although online contact should not replace face-to-face interactions, these platforms can help keep your name and your brand in the forefront.

Networking is important. The people you meet in professional settings may be the ones who can help launch a new career or inspire you in your current position. As a result, you also gain valuable friendships with people who have similar interests and professions.

Photo Courtesy of TheNetworkAfrica at Flickr.com


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Emma I would think that an online presence would be vital in order to garner a following of your blog site. Could a personal blog backfire? Absolutely. Think of all of the people who have lost their jobs because of some rant that posted on Facebook about their company. Same could be true of a personal blog. And, if you plan to continue with your personal blog site, then yes you would need to update it in order to keep folks interested. As for the design - you could play with that for awhile and see what works best.

  • Emma Rochekins
    Emma Rochekins

    Having an online presence might be useful (or even required) in some professions, but is it really necessary for most people to build their own blog? To do it well takes time, talent and technique. For many couldn't a personal blog actually backfire, if the content isn't continually refreshed or the design isn't appealing.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    My biggest mistake with networking is to show up for networking events but just talk to the person I came with. Making small talk can be anxiety-producing, but I try to remind myself that if i made the effort to show up, I need to put forth the effort once I get there- otherwise I'm just wasting my time.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    I think it’s a great idea to join professional organizations. Not only do these organizations allow you get to network with other people in your chosen field, they even make a nice addition to your resume. Socializing is a large part of networking and the events hosted by professional organizations provide an ideal opportunity to make some friends and contacts.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    These are some good tips but I disagree with the advice to turn off the computer. In the digital age, personal networks can be a lot broader than the people that we can reach in real time. On the other hand, social media interfaces offer excellent opportunities to communicate with professionals and build a targeted network. I think the better advice is to stay on your computer and use it to build up your social media presence.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Jacob so very true that not everyone can do these. Some of us do live in small towns where networking events are few and far between and those that are available are out of reach financially. In that case, you need to be doing more online networking. And yes, it is certainly worth the time that you take to do them as they can open up avenues that you never considered before.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    Are there enough benefits to an online only approach to make that worth the effort? If somebody lives in a smaller town with very limited opportunity for local events or is trying to support a family with a second (or third) job, time and money to attend luncheons and posh evening events is likely to be short, especially while getting started.

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    In the current information age, there is a notion that networking simply entails staying in front of your computer for lengthy periods updating and getting information on Facebook, LinkedIn and sundry others. However, I personally find it more effective when you go out and meet people personally to create serious professional bonds that can actually give you real life exposure on your field of interest.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Abbey I don't think that there are a lot of rules about networking. If you are at an event and you maybe see a lively discussion going on, try to join in, if you can. If you are so painfully shy that walking up and saying hi to someone would cause you to hyperventilate, then maybe in person networking isn't for you. In which case you might try some online connections. If there's a particular company that you would love to work for, see if you can find any online connections to it and start opening up the lines of communication. Many jobs are in-house ones that are not advertised so the only way you would know about them is if you have a connection within that company. And don't be afraid to ask your connection to submit your resume for you. Resumes that come from current employees always receive more attention than the thousands of resumes that come through the ATS daily. Another great way to network is to attend job fairs.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    It seems I've read dozens of tips about networking. I have found myself telling others not to be shy, talk to everyone, never leave opportunities behind. However, is there a set of rules as to who to approach and when? Is there a line not to cross when approaching new people?

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    I'm glad you mentioned the elevator pitch. That's one aspect of networking I could stand to improve. As I begin to build new branding for myself, this is one of the items I need to elevate, as you suggested. Coordinating the content of it with the items on my resume is not something I had considered, however. That's an interesting idea.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Shannon thanks for that viewpoint. I guess it depends upon how you deliver the elevator speech. It's only about 30 seconds anyhow - and you could modify it for the current situation. I agree that being natural would be better but always have that speech ready - just in case. @Jay - taking an assertiveness course sounds like a great idea!

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    I fully agree that it's worth it to learn how to network effectively. I think the shyest among us can reap the benefits of networking if we're able to assert ourselves properly. For some individuals (like my own mother, for example!), assertiveness courses have tremendously positive impacts on social behaviors.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    I think that the elevator pitch is often too restrictive and scripted for networking events. People can recognize right away when you are delivering a pitch and it can be off putting. I think that people should launch conversations naturally without focusing on delivering a scripted response.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @William it certainly can get overwhelming as you grow your network. It's true that it's hard to find the time to really cultivate those new relationships. I try to schedule an hour or two every week just to touch base with some of those connections so that I can keep my name in the forefront of their minds. Especially if the networking is for the purpose of finding a new position. Remember that they are having the same issue as you in trying to find the time to keep up with their networks.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    How do you know which of these networking relationship to cultivate more thoroughly? If you treat everyone as potential friends, and you meet dozens of new people per year, do you have any tips for maintaining your network once you find a lot of people? Making contact seems to be the easy part, but managing your time by keeping up with your contacts is another matter.

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