When was the last time you worked on building your professional network? If you can’t remember the last time you made a new professional connection or made the effort to attend a networking event, this is a post you need to read.
Networking is essential for improving your career, and it’s something that every professional should do regardless of how much experience they have or how long they’ve been working.
If you find that you don’t enjoy networking, it’s possible that it’s because you haven’t been focused on making real connections.
Approaching every networking opportunity with a robotic-like focus on getting a business card won’t be helpful for anyone involved. You start to see the true benefits of networking when you focus on making actual connections with everyone there.
It’s time to change your approach to networking. We’re going to teach you why networking is important, why you should take an approach of Personal Connection®, and some strategies for building authentic connections with people you meet. Here’s VP Legacies’ guide to networking with genuine enthusiasm and authenticity.
The Importance of Networking
Some people have a problem with networking because they feel awkward making connections for business purposes. Or it’s possible that they don’t feel comfortable in social situations.
Regardless of how you feel about networking, you should know that it’s something that’s absolutely essential for any professional to do. Not only is it essential, but it’s one of the fun parts of your professional life. You get to meet people, learn, and generate ideas together.
Are you curious about why networking is so important? Here are a few good reasons why everyone should try to network.
Climb the Career Ladder
Alt text: Employees attend a networking event in a large meeting room.
Being noticed at important networking events can be just as important as making connections at them.
When you go to networking events, you build your reputation as a knowledgeable and reliable person. It shows that you’re interested in growing your skillset and are engaged in the local business ecosystem.
When you expand your professional contacts, you open yourself up to learning about potential new opportunities for business. This can be good if you’re planning on finding a new job soon, or if you want to grow your business.
Remember, you may not meet who you want at an event, but when you make connections you open yourself up to each individual’s network. The Personal Connection® you make tonight could lead you to an even better connection in the future. And, it’s not always about quantity. If you find someone whose interests align with yours, invest the time to really get to know them and maybe find a time to meet later on.
Expand Your Knowledge
Making connections can help you grow your own personal skillset.
When you meet someone in the same industry, you can talk about shared professional experiences. You’ll be able to talk about what’s worked for you in certain situations and brainstorm new ways to overcome some of the problems you face.
Networking opportunities can also be a great place to absorb knowledge from heavy hitters in your industry.
Plenty of professional meetup groups hold monthly talks. You can get important tips on building your career or learn important skills. At some point, you may even consider giving a talk and building your professional standing in the community.
Get New Ideas
It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut professionally. You’re so focused on the day to day work that goes along with maintaining a company or doing your own job that you can lose focus on the ultimate goal of growth.
Build a Talent Pool
It’s important to keep in mind that business owners aren’t the only people that need to pull from a network of professionals from time to time.
You never know when you’re going to need help at work. Whether you need to hire an executive or need to redesign your website, networking can help you find the talent you need.
Why Personal Connections Matter in Networking
You’re networking for professional reasons, but that doesn’t mean that the relationships you build aren’t authentic. When you make a Personal Connection® in your professional network, you open yourself up to so many more opportunities.
When professional opportunities arise, the person you connected with is more likely to come to mind as opposed to someone you had a quick exchange with at a networking event.
You also open yourself up to having a fulfilling relationship that can grow into a friendship. Connecting with people in life can be rare enough, so you should view any opportunity as a time to potentially build a relationship.
It’s rare to find a true friend that you can also talk about professional matters with. Imagine having someone you can trust like a friend, and also work with like a business partner.
Build Real Connections with Technology
Now that we’ve gone over the benefits of networking and building real connections, it’s time to think about ways for you to make personal connections with people.
Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with people and build connections. Use these tools when you want to build your professional network and create personal connections.
Utilize Social Media
Social media isn’t just good for posting memes and keeping in touch with family members. When you utilize it correctly, you can easily build your professional network and deepen your established connections.
LinkedIn has become the de facto social platform for people that want to network. The platform is a great resource for building professional connections, but it’s not the only one out there.
When you utilize social media to build connections, don’t just focus on finding people to follow or friend. Post your own original content and use the right tags so people can find you.
Once you get to know someone better, consider adding them on other social networks. Do a quick search for their name on other platforms and see how many different ways you can connect with them.
People can behave in different ways based on the platform they’re on. Following someone’s Instagram or Twitter profile can give you insight into their life that LinkedIn never could.
Write an E-mail
Alt text: A woman composes an email on her desktop.
When was the last time you wrote someone a friendly e-mail? Sometimes just writing a few sentences can be enough to build a real Personal Connection® with people.
If you really want to improve your chances of making a professional connection, use social media as a way to figure out the best time to check in with a connection over e-mail.
Did someone recently add a new job to their LinkedIn? Have you noticed them posting about preparing to welcome a new baby to their family, or that they’re excited about an upcoming vacation?
When you notice important things happening in their lives, don’t be afraid to send them an e-mail. They may appreciate that you’re thinking of them and give you the same courtesy of keeping up on your life.
Make Connections in-Person
Technology can connect with other people, but you shouldn’t forget about the power of making connections in person.
The personal touch of in-person interaction can help strengthen your relationship. Here are some tips on creating one-on-one and group interactions to improve your connections.
Find a Group Event
If you want to find a way to passively build connections and potentially expand other people’s networks, find a way to meet in a group.
This can be as easy as sending a link to meetup or conference information to people over social media or an e-mail. You can start a large discussion thread for people you want to connect with.
Are you having trouble finding an event to bring people to? Make an event of your own!
Grab a table at a coffee shop and make a monthly get together for people to chat. This can allow you to curate the guest list and invite people you think would mesh well together.
Connect on a One-on-One Level
Alt text: Two employees have a short get-together after work.
If you feel that you do better when you can focus on one person, don’t be afraid to send an invitation to a one-on-one gathering.
Offer to grab a drink after work for an impromptu happy hour, or schedule some time to have coffee in the morning. You don’t have to make these events long, sometimes just having an hour to talk can be enough.
Finding time during the workday may be the easiest way to meet up with someone. Offer to choose a location close to their work to make it easier for them to agree to a time.
Find New Ways to Connect
Building real connections can be the best way for you to make a professional network that can help you grow. Whether you do outreach with technology or try to meet people in person, you can’t deny the power of having a strong network.
Do you want to learn about other strategies that can help you grow your business or personal brand? Are you curious about ways the people around you can create new social connections?
If you are, Personal Connection® 101 can help improve your social connections inside and outside of work. With lessons on communication during the digital age and how to create successful small talk, you’ll be able to engage with your colleagues, friends, and family in authentic ways.
Related: Why Empathy in the Workplace Matters