Tired of outdated networking tips that don’t seem to get you anywhere? Networking isn’t just a one-time event where you exchange information and promise to follow up. There’s much more to it than that.
Networking is an important part of your career that happens during everyday interactions that you have both inside and outside of the workplace. Although it is important, it can be a little tricky and even overwhelming. This can be especially true if you’re an introvert or new in your career.
10 Key networking tips you can actually use
Having relevant and useful networking tips will help you to connect with the right people in a way that is both genuine and simple. Here are some tips to consider when using networking as a career advancement strategy.
1. Be yourself
The most important tip for networking is to be yourself. Being genuine is the easiest way to attract people who will support you and your career goals. That’s the ultimate goal.
This means that you’ll first need to be confident in yourself. If you struggle with self-confidence, consider reading some self-help books to build up your self-esteem.
2. Attend work events
Sitting at your desk isn’t the best way to meet new people. If you want to expand your network, then you need to start attending work events. Often, companies will host networking events like happy hour, team building activities, and even conferences.
Take advantage of these opportunities to get out and meet new people. Getting out of the office helps lighten the environment and is a fun way to connect over common interests.
3. Never eat alone
The phrase, “never eat alone” was made popular by the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. The book provides insight on how to build valuable relationships and not just transactional networks. Nonetheless, taken literally, the idea of never eating alone is a great networking tip to follow.
So instead of eating lunch alone or using it to run errands, consider inviting a colleague out to lunch or for coffee. The small act of eating together and engaging in conversation can foster a relationship that can not only benefit your career, but your personal life as well.
Volunteering is another great way to meet new people and to help boost your career. This can mean volunteering for a work project, work-related events, and generally volunteering in your community.
Some of the most unexpected connections are forged when you are serving and being generous. If your company doesn’t have some sort of philanthropic effort, consider leading the charge to start one. You can even add this to your professional development goals.
Doing volunteer work can provide you with experience and skills that you can leverage to improve your performance at work and to justify asking for a raise. If you’re unemployed, volunteering is a great way to find a new career and it possibly opens the door for employment.
5. Do a good job
As obvious as it may sound, sometimes simply doing a great job can get you noticed by the right people. Small things like showing up on time, being cordial with your colleagues, and working with excellence all matter. This creates a positive reputation that will proceed you and attract opportunities to you.
When you’ve done an excellent job on a project or had a work win, don’t be afraid to share it! Don’t assume that your peers or superiors know that you’re doing a good job. You can do this by sending an email to your manager informing them of a project's success or even share it on your LinkedIn profile.
6. Find a mentor
A career mentor can help you navigate the professional space and provide career insights to help you succeed. Mentors can also connect you to people who can positively influence your career trajectory.
Finding the right mentor can be a huge boost to your career, so be careful to find someone who you respect and who has time to mentor you. Consider these tips for finding a career mentor.
7. Join professional & civic organizations
Professional organizations not only look good on your resume, but they are one of the best ways to network for your career.
You can find organizations centered around your career field and others that are open to all. Some of the most popular professional/civic organizations include Rotary International and Toastmasters International.
8. Be active in your alumni group
Your college alumni group can be one of the most beneficial networking resources that you have in your career. One way to leverage that network is by being active in your local alumni organization. This allows you to connect with people who have access to other networks and opportunities.
The simple comradery of going to the same institution lends itself to favors and resources that would otherwise be unavailable or, at least, harder to access.
9. Use LinkedIn
Sometimes networking in person isn’t possible, but don’t let that discourage you. There are ways to network when meeting in person isn’t an option. One way is through professional platforms like Linkedin.
This platform allows you to connect with other professionals within your industry and to even find jobs. Consider using the platform to keep in touch with your professional contacts and to create new connections.
10. Leverage your current network
When it comes to networking, work smarter, not harder. You already have a network of friends and family who can introduce you to more people. Leverage the connections that you already have. Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions where appropriate.
5 Networking tips for events
There are times when you may attend events that are specifically intended for networking. In this case, you need to have a plan to make the most out of your time. Here are some best practices to follow when attending a networking event.
1. Arrive early
As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. Getting an early start also gives you the advantage of engaging with people in a less crowded environment. This means that you can have more engaging conversations that don’t feel rushed. This is important if you truly want to leave having created genuine connections.
2. Be prepared to talk about yourself
It’s not often that we are encouraged to talk about ourselves, but in the case of a networking event, you’ll want to. Be prepared to succinctly talk about what you do and what your goals are.
Also, be prepared to talk about yourself beyond your career—like where you’re from and things that you like to do for fun.
3. Bring business cards with your picture on them
Remembering names can be hard, let alone several new names within a short time span. Tying a face to a name can make things a lot easier. Having business cards with your picture on them can help you stand out and be remembered.
You can add a professional headshot beside your name and contact information so that people can easily remember you if they decide to follow up.
If you take a business card from someone else, use the backside to take notes about the person after you’re done talking. This can help jog your memory later when you’re trying to recall your conversation and put a face to the name. Ultimately, if you want to get better at remembering names, here are some hacks to try.
4. Ask engaging questions & give memorable answers
Don’t be a bore. Have engaging conversations that will make you memorable. This means that you should not only be engaging with your responses but that you should also ask engaging questions.
This goes back to not just talking about work or business. Instead, talk about other interesting things, like hobbies. While you’re talking, remember not to monopolize the conversation. It’s a conversation, not a monologue.
5. Send follow up emails
Networking doesn’t end with the event. It’s important to continue those conversations after the event is over by following up via email, phone call, or text message. Set a reminder on your calendar to follow up the next morning and again 3 months from then. Keep those relationships active and build upon them over time.
Final thoughts on networking tips
As you can see, networking is more than just looking for opportunities and people that will benefit you. Instead, it’s about building relationships and serving. The better you become at these two things, the more effective you will be at boosting your career.