Networking is one of the proven strategies that will help build your career over the long term. With networking you rarely see the benefits right away, but long term with continued relationship management and giving you will see the payoff both professionally and personally.

Like any other relationship, professional relationships are not one sided. In fact, since they are not as personal they often require more giving than you would think.  But how do you successfully start off a business connection and ensure its continued success?

  • Make it about the other person – simply when you meet the person, ask them about their career and look for ways you can help. If they mention they are looking for a job, keep that in the back of your mind and offer a connection if you can. Did they just graduate from a program or get a promotion? Congratulate them. Or do you know of an event they might benefit from – let them know about it.
  • Reach out to connections you have not heard from for a while– send the recipient a quick email asking them how they are doing or comment on something you saw on their LinkedIn profile, even extending an invitation to a networking event or coffee meeting is a good idea!
  • Don’t always be the giver – like in any form of communication, if someone is always taking and never giving, it’s time to move on. The point of networking is to build a professional network that allows people to help each other out.

How about the start of the networking relationship – how do you really get started on the right foot and how do you find the right places to make connections?

  • Have a plan– the biggest mistake networkers make is talking to the whole room. How much of an impact can you really make in 2 hours if you go to meet 40 different people? Set a goal – 3 to 5 meaningful connections and anything beyond that is a bonus.
  • Decide what your objectives are – Are you looking for new business, potential employment opportunities, or just to meet new people? Once you have determined your objective you’ll need to determine the best places to meet these people.
  • Finding the best venues to connect – Seminar? Open Networking? Event where you have someone who can introduce you to others OR are you looking for a fresh new approach? Once you have determined this you can select an event. Keep in mind your comfort levels. If you are looking to meet a whole new set of people, but are not too sure about going into a room of strangers mingling, consider a seminar or a lunch and learn, you will sit with other people, learn and connect. Another great way to make connections is to volunteer, consider joining a board of directors, or giving pro bono services.

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Courtesy: The Importance of Networking

Now with all of these strategies considered, you should consistently be planning your next networking move and seeing where you can help out. Not all networking situations will be comfortable or payoff, but getting out to know people will show commitment to your career and improve your social skills immensely. Networking will expose you to various types of people and communication styles. Think about it this way, if you encounter someone who doesn’t make you feel your best when communicating with them, you will learn how to improve your communication skills. Observe other professionals who seem to have no qualms when talking to others, observe what draws others to them? Is it their personality, presence or how they talk to others? One thing you will see with people who see very successful at networking is that they are often willing to talk to others, and more importantly ask about others.

While networking can improve your business communication you will also reap other benefits – you can learn about current business trends and best business practices. People will let you know what is going on in their industry, when you can learn about the challenges or changes in the business world, it will allow you to determine your best practices in business.

For individuals who are considering consulting in their career – networking is key, while you might not be considering it for a few years, building your network with the idea that you will someday be moving into the consulting business, could present you with potential opportunities earlier that you had planned. Which in return could launch your consulting career and help you build a reputation before you are ready to officially launch.

Building a professional networking beginning in college is essential, and it is never too late to start if you have not already begun. The key is to build a consistent and ongoing network, which will in the long run help you to build a strong successful career.

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