When in comes to professional development, the importance of networking is acknowledged as a pivotal element for your career advancement. Networking serves many purposes, from climbing the corporate ladder to securing a guiding mentor, uncovering fresh vocational pathways, initiating or expanding a business venture, accessing skills, elevating your stature, and forging connections with peers with similar professional interests.
However, to unlock the full potential of networking, you must go beyond conventional methods and perceptions.
Rethinking Networking Norms: Expectation Versus Reality
When you think of networking, you may associate it with social mixers, conferences, webinars, and online platforms such as LinkedIn. While these channels are beneficial, they represent just a fraction of what true networking entails. Networking is about life experiences, personal interactions, and professional engagements.
Traditional to Contemporary Networking Practices
Historically, networking has been viewed as a transactional activity centered around what you can gain from others. This perspective encourages you to reach out to others only when you need something, foster relationships based on reciprocal benefit, and focus on the number of connections.
For instance, this old-school strategy may look like only connecting with an old manager or colleague when you need to use them as a reference.
In contrast, the contemporary approach to networking is relational, prioritizing mutual support and continuous engagement without immediate expectations or scorekeeping.
This new style of networking could mean sending a colleague looking for a job a lead or referring a client to a vendor who may be of service.
This style of networking is measured by the quality of your connections not about the quantity of your connections.
Authenticity: The Cornerstone of Meaningful Connections
As highlighted in “The Go-Giver “by Bob Burg and John David Mann, people tend to do business with and refer business to those they know, like, and trust. The essence of building genuine relationships lies in self-awareness and authenticity. Embracing your individuality allows you to resonate more deeply with others.
How can you authentically connect with others? Perhaps you comment on their LinkedIn post about a recent promotion or send them an article on a topic you know may be of interest to them.
Delving into Your Network
Think about why and how you are connected to existing professionals in your network. There are the usual people who come to mind: Colleagues at your current job, associates you know through professional associations and even vendors you may work with.
From there, identify secondary and tertiary contacts who may be worth connecting with. Working off existing connections in your network is easier than trying to forge fresh relationships.
For instance, we have a strong 10+ year relationship with a print vendor. We send her referrals when we have colleagues ask for a good printer as well as proposals we see that may be a good fit for her. In turn, she recently recommended us to a print client of hers in need of public relations services.
Optimizing LinkedIn for Networking
LinkedIn is a great networking resource when you use it strategically. It is a great place to keep up to date on colleagues, find out about available jobs, and highlight your professional accomplishments. To make the most of LinkedIn’s robust offerings, make sure that you:
- Regularly update your profile, including using a current photo, adding new professional achievements, and requesting recommendations
- Establish yourself as an industry thought leader through participating in conversations within your area or expertise and sharing information on initiatives and projects you are working on
- Foster connections through comments and direct messaging
The adage “Keep in touch; out of sight, out of mind” underscores the significance of consistent communication in maintaining relationships. To nurture personal connections you will want to engage intentionally through diverse communications channels from in-person gatherings to social media.
Networking is all about nurturing substantial, sincere relationships. By thinking of new ways to network, you can elevate your networking to new heights. Authentic connections happen over time. As you look to grow your professional circle, think of one or two ways you can create meaningful connections weekly.
Interested in learning more? Contact us at 951.764.0865 or online.
Read our previous post: Tackling Branding in a Cost-effective Way.