Over the years, I’ve come to understand the importance of having a well-established network. Whether you’re looking to improve your personal or professional life – networking is essential.
Networking is not only about trading information, it also involves developing (and maintaining) mutually benefitting long-term relationships.
Research has shown that having a vast network not only gives you access to business opportunities; it also broadens your knowledge. When you invest in your relationships, it could open doors for you at crucial times.
So, what is the best way to build a strong network?
Before I share with you my tips, it’s essential to know that there is no ‘one style fits all’ tactic when it comes to networking. Some people do great at networking events, while others prefer one-on-one meetings. Make sure you find which style works best for you.
1. Reach Out To Your Existing Contacts.
An excellent way to network is to reach out to your existing contacts – friends and family. Someone you know is bound to know someone who might be relevant to your network. I recently organised a Vision Board Party for 20 women personally didn’t know 20 people – but by speaking to my immediate friends and family, all slots were taken. It’s sometimes easier to keep in touch with new contacts if they’ve come from people you know.
2. Put Yourself Out There.
As an ambivert, I often find it hard to strike conversations with new people – it gets awkward for me. I soon realised it was one way to help me improve my skill set. Another way to grow your network is to go social. Reach out on social media and try to attend local events in your area. I recently signed up to an online networking platform called MeetUp.Com to help me find people who share similar passions to mine. Another great platform for finding networking events in your area is Eventbrite. When going for social events, always think of what you have to offer.
It feels more authentic when you network based on shared interests.
3. Stay Connected.
Follow up with your contacts after networking – do this sooner rather than later. You don’t have to send a long heartfelt message but make sure it’s personalised. Make sure to remind the person of a memorable moment of your conversation and tell them what it was that stood out for you about them. LinkedIn is great for staying connected with new professional contacts – see a post you like, drop a comment. Try to schedule regular check-ins. Most of the close relationships I have today started on social media. Don’t forget to show gratitude if one of your contacts taught you a valuable career lesson or helped you resolve a tricky issue.
4. Pay It Forward.
Someone once said to me that the real secret to networking is being able to help others by paying it forward. When you offer to help someone with no expectations, you are laying the foundation for a successful relationship. By paying it forward, you’re impacting someone’s life by gifting them either your time, support or knowledge.
Remember, a successful connection is one where you and your contact both get something out of knowing each other. Don’t just get in touch when you need something, start a conversation where you can share interests and opinions regularly to build a long-lasting relationship.