Let’s face it: Networking is a huge part of daily life in almost any industry. Whether you’re in an office or remote, you are constantly in communication with people. Fostering and maintaining connections is a huge part of any career, and for some, it can also be a hurdle, a skill set that’s constantly being developed.
Luckily, networking isn’t just a skill for the extroverts anymore. With technology today networking isn’t so much “handshakes and happy hours”—it can be as easy as an email, a nod on LinkedIn or other social media, or coffee at lunch. There are so many ways to expand your network, and we’re here to make it a little easier to get started.
Expand Your Idea of What You Think a Network Is
This is a small step toward generating a wide network. Networks are not formed solely within the framework of your career peers—so many people form connections based on people their family, friends, and coworkers know. Sometimes networking is as simple as being candid about your career goals and job search. The people that care about you the most are the most likely to want to help you, and the more they know about your interests the better. Reach out to the friend that works adjacent to your industry and keep your family members aware of your progress. The more interest you express, the more you’re likely to get back in return.
Keep Your Online Presence Up to Date
Seriously: Keep your LinkedIn profile updated. It seems small, but your online visibility will likely be one of the first points of contact you have with any potential employer. It takes such a small amount of time for an individual to scan your accomplishments, and an even shorter amount of time to dismiss you if your information doesn’t accurately reflect your achievements. Keep your profile up-to-date and make sure to add people to your network when you have the opportunity to—having people in common between you and your contacts can sometimes be all the difference where job hunting is concerned.
If your job requires any kind of social media experience or media samples, Twitter and Instagram are great ways to connect with employers and keep yourself aware of key players in your industry. Visibility goes two ways, so ensure that your social media presence reflects you well before engaging in social media networking.
Seek Out a Mentor
Being unapologetically interested in fostering a learning relationship with someone in your industry is nothing to be ashamed of—far from it. There’s a lot of wisdom and perspective to be gained from someone that’s been in your industry for a while.
If you’re unsure of where to begin even looking for a mentor, think about people in your current network, or people you’ve worked for before. Even if you don’t get a job you interview for, staying connected with the person you interviewed with can sometimes result in a valuable mentorship relationship, and might afford you more job opportunities in the future. Getting one-on-one time with a mentor can be as easy as inviting them out to coffee—come prepared to the meeting with questions and don’t forget to ask them about their experiences.
Be the First Person to Reach Out
This is crucial to fostering almost any relationship. Getting over the fear of rejection and being the first person to extend a hand in friendship or contact is an extremely easy way to network—it can also be a bit scary. You’ll demonstrate that you’re genuinely interested in connecting with someone if you open up a dialogue first, and most people are willing to be helpful if you’re willing to put in the initial work. Be courteous, polite, and genuine in your first message or opener to the person you want to connect with, and don’t overstep boundaries.
Don’t forget that it’s okay to pace yourself when it comes to developing networking skills. Setting a strategy and challenging yourself to reach out to one new person a month is an effective way to keep your networking skills in constant use, or build them up slowly.
This is especially important if your career path takes you to a new city or state. Being willing to socialize and hang out with people that work in your industry can be a bridge to your next career move—and you’re very likely to have common interests, especially if you reconnect with people from graduate or professional programs. Learning how to meet with people in a casual setting will also give you more experience when it comes to more professional networking scenarios. As a bonus, you might even get a new friend or two out of it!
Go to the Events
This might seem a little on the nose, but it genuinely works! Going to the networking events you might think are a bit superfluous and engaging in small talk with your coworkers are great ways to foster connections in and outside of the office. Often, networking events will offer a unique opportunity to chat with people outside of your immediate team. Whether you’re job-hunting or simply seeking ways to grow your career in your current position, attending the networking events put on by your company is not only a great way to network but its also a great way to demonstrate your engagement with your job and your desire to move forward. Even a virtual coffee hangout can offer opportunities to connect.
The most important thing to keep in mind throughout your journeys in networking is to be yourself and trust that you have a great deal to offer anyone you connect with.