What Is Professional Networking? And Why You Ought to Do More of It
Professional networking is an essential life skill and needs to be strategically approached. Networking is not a once-and-done scenario; it’s an ongoing process of building relationships throughout your career and your personal journey.
What is Professional Networking?
Professional networking involves connecting with people, being curious, building meaningful relationships, and helping others.
Networking is NOT about collecting people, a cursory card exchange, focusing only on your needs, asking for a job (prematurely), and taking from or manipulating others for your benefit.
So, when you consider building your network, it should be laser-focused on fostering and developing trusting and mutually beneficial relationships. It’s critical to have genuine interest while conversing with everyone you meet. Remember: ask not what the other can do for you but instead pay attention to what’s most important to the person and how you may be able to help. This makes you memorable and valuable.
How does one establish professional networking goals?
Recognize that professional networking goals are akin important knowing that networking is a practice of ongoing development.
Networking is a skill to practice regularly. We should always be building our network - continuously. Why would you ever stop building relationships? This where many professionals get confused because they believe that networking is an event or something to do to get a new job or an activity for seminars. It is so much more than any of those.
For many, this may require a significant shift in mindset to see that networking is building relationships. Once you recognize the value of continual relationship building, make a commitment to yourself for networking.
How many new connections do you want to make per week, per month, or over the course of a year? Whatever the number, remember it’s the quality of the relationship that matters most, not the quantity. Assess your career goals and how leveraging the power of networking can impact your growth while also helping others.
Since networking opportunities are available in person and virtually, examine all avenues for connection. LinkedIn is an important connecting point; learn all it offers, join groups and use it frequently.
As you set your professional networking goals and prioritize helping other people, you are, in turn, helping yourself by growing relationships. True connections happen organically by getting to know people and nurturing those quality connections. Opportunities follow.
The key to mastering the art of professional networking is to keep at it.
How can women identify professional networking groups that are the best fit?
First, determine your objective of connecting with people. What is most important to you.
- Are you looking to advance your career to the next level? Perhaps network with women who are at a certain level to learn from their experiences.
- Are you looking to deepen your knowledge of an industry? Join a group with experts in that industry. Contribute to the group by sharing your own knowledge.
- Are you looking for vendors, clients, or potential employees? Determine where they are and who can help you connect with them.
It comes down to intention in the right direction. Establishing your intent and goals will make it easier to find professional networking groups best suited to your interests.
Ask colleagues, clients, or vendors about groups you’re considering and have them weigh in. Be willing to try a few things. Be advised that the fit may be great or terrible, but you need to try a variety of groups to find the best fit.
You may join many groups, industry-based, women’s networking, or local groups, each will offer something different. All can be beneficial for various reasons.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained is the moral of this story. Put yourself out there to connect!
What are the benefits of professional networking?
The benefits are numerous when it comes to building your professional network..
For maximum benefit, don’t run yourself ragged at an event aiming to connect with everyone. For long-lasting benefits, it’s far better to meet fewer people and go deeper beyond the introductory small talk. Doing this, you can build the relationship much faster.
You benefit by having connections with whom you have built a relationship. This isn’t about calling them out of the blue with a BIG ask; it’s more about relating authentically: “Hey, how's your son? He’s a senior now, if I remember correctly. Is he driving? How's that going?” Later in the conversation, it will be appropriate to ask, “Hey, do you happen to know anybody who works at Company ABC? I’m looking for a contact over there.”
And remember, friends help friends. Be a friend.
Insider Tips for Networking Success
You are always networking. It happens anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Opportunities abound at work, gym, with hair stylist, in the neighborhood, in your volunteer positions, and so on. Remember - are you building relationships or missing opportunities?
Discover what works for you. Keep relationship building simple and have some fun.
Networking is a winning opportunity for everyone who engages.
When does it stop?
And even if when not for your profession, you're networking as a parent to figure out what's happening in the school or looking to move to a new area or try a new church.
And you're networking to fit in.
Even in retirement, you’re networking, building friendships and connections.
Is it any wonder you’ll need to sharpen this skill to navigate your career and life successfully?
Be sure to read “Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz for excellent tips on relationship building. If you were to eat lunch with a different person each work day, you would have gotten to know 200 people by chit-chatting over lunch. You may consider walking with colleagues and get fresh air as you learn more about them; people tend to open up while walking.
Do you feel tongue-tied when networking? Do you ask the same old boring questions?
Stand out in the crowd and improve your strategy. Consider a new approach and become a master of asking engaging questions that excite people, up-level your connection skills, and read Break the Mold: 30 Better Questions to Ask When Networking. Put these questions to the test next time you have the opportunity to network.
Be sure to attend several professional networking events, and you’ll meet many interesting people along the way, some of whom will become clients, colleagues, or friends.
Leverage these tips for networking success -- you’ll be glad you did!
How Can a Coach Enhance Your Networking Skills and Goals?
A coach can help you get clarity on your networking goal.
What is it that you are hoping to get out of it?
A coach also helps you with your confidence, removing barriers to some beliefs that you may have about yourself or about a situation that's stopping you from doing it. You can also practice with a coach.
Together you can come up with some ideas and then check on how it’s going after networking. Based on the results, what can we do differently next time?
Ready to develop expert networking skills with a coach?
Schedule a FREE 30-minute discovery call that allows you to explore further.
Network mastery is within your reach with a coach in your corner!
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