Networking is often a key part of getting a job, but a lot of people find it a difficult and nerve-racking experience. Some people are born networkers who naturally gravitate toward situations in which they can form mutually beneficial connections with others. But networking skills can be learned even if you’re the type to clam up at the thought of interacting with strangers. As you consider how to network for your career, keep the following principles in mind.
– Focus on building relationships rather than completing transactions. A good networker, rather than searching out someone who can help them with a particular task, builds a relationship with a person who might be able to help them in the future. Start out by getting to know the whole person, listen to them more than you talk about yourself, and offer them something that will be valuable to them with no strings attached before you ask them for anything in return.
– Look for win-win situations. The best long-term networking relationships arise from situations in which both parties benefit. Often this can mean building relationships with people in complementary roles to yours, like a web designer working with a web developer to each drive referral business toward the other.
– Be proactive. From time to time, good networking opportunities may come to you. But more often than not you need to seek them out yourself. Social media outlets are a great place to start interacting with people in your field, and the face-to-face networking available at conferences or meet-ups presents excellent opportunities as well.
– Build a few strong connections rather than many weak ones. Knowing hundreds of people in your field won’t do you much good if you don’t know any of them well. Try focusing instead on creating quality relationships with a few people, especially on social media. Having 100 followers who care about you can mean you’ll have a bigger impact than someone with 10,000 followers who never read their content.