In order to master the art of networking, we must first understand a few fundamentals. What is networking? Why should you network? And where does networking take place?
Networking is the establishment of contacts or a reliable network in which to exchange information. You can create a network with your classmates, your co-workers, or anyone you meet. It is the relationship of people with whom you are. We’ll compare your network to a garden. You must nurture and cultivate the contacts. Each relationship is an opportunity to cultivate into a productive relationship.
Networking is a great way to build your personal brand. Your network is being built daily with or without your conscious efforts. Developing relationships is a talent. Nurture your current network. This will give you a chance to connect with the people who have worked with you professionally. Managers, professors, colleagues and friends are all part of your potential network. Stay in touch with these connections. They are familiar with your work ethic and potential. These people may be able to unite you with like-minded professionals. While you will have many opportunities to attend events for networking, utilizing your current network is a great way to get reliable leads for business opportunities.
Speaking of networking events, attend them! Dedicate time to attend events for networking and professional development. Trade associations, trade shows, and conferences offer an opportunity for professionals to connect. Go to where the industry leads you. When you are looking to expand your network, you will need to establish new connections. While those networking happy hours seem inviting, be mindful of your purpose and realize you may not create the greatest connections.
Be prepared and have a card. You can use a basic card for networking. This card contains the contact information for your new contact, as well as a description of the work you perform. A business card provides you an opportunity to exchange information on-the-fly with any potential professional contacts. If you are fortunate enough to exchange cards, be sure to follow-up with a phone call or email.
Be reliable. Actions speak louder than words. If you are known for being reliable, you will come to mind of people in your network when they are in need of your talents. They may even recommend you for projects because of your reputation.
Be honorable. When you carry yourself in a professional way, you will be thought of without reservation. Former colleagues can be exceptional assets. However, if you are known for doing the bare minimum, you will find it difficult to cultivate these leads into fruitful opportunities.
Mastering the art of networking is very much like a garden. It must be nurtured, cultivated and tended to in order to provide any fruits. The fruits may provide career opportunities but without proper cultivation, they will spoil.