Essential Tips for Networking
If you’re searching for a new job, or trying to build connections with other professionals in your field, networking can help open the door to career-boosting opportunities. However, for most people, approaching a stranger you admire can feel uncomfortable or intimidating. Our advice? Don’t let this stop you from putting yourself out there! Like everything, there’s a strategy to networking in a meaningful way to help you forge deeper professional relationships and grow your career.
We sat down with Career Group Companies Director of Client Partnerships, Valerie Gard, to discuss her best tips for forging meaningful connections and fostering lasting relationships. Below are some of our best tips for progressing in your career and building your professional network.
The networking essentials:
Networking should be organic
“The key is building an authentic relationship,” says Valerie Gard, “Networking should be organic.”
The most important thing to remember as you work on your networking skills is that the connections you make should be mutually beneficial. Develop a relationship that goes beyond business needs, find commonalities or shared interests. Networking is just like building any other type of relationship, don’t let the word “networking” intimidate you! The best professional, and personal, relationships are built on shared passions, interests, or backgrounds. Seek out connections that you are genuinely interested in meeting. Don’t overthink it – look for commonalities and allow your relationship the time it needs to grow organically.
Quality over quantity
Networking isn’t a numbers game. You could have over 1,000 connections on LinkedIn but still be stuck when it comes to finding new opportunities.
"You may get coffee with 10 people and make no progress, but at that 11th coffee you might make the connection you’ve been searching for the entire time,” says Gard. “Those 10 coffees weren’t a waste though because you now have deeper relationships with 10 more people, and maybe one of those connections will actually be able to provide an opportunity down the line.”
Before reaching out to someone, whether it be online or in person, have a good idea of what you’re going to say. You should have your elevator pitch ready to go—this is a short personal statement that explains who you are and what you do in a concise and engaging way.
“Consider what makes you different,” says Gard. “Who are you? What are you great at? What are you looking to achieve?”
It also helps to do some research on the person you’re speaking to so you can bring up something in their background that interested you. If you aren’t able to do that, try to find a common professional interest to discuss. Set aside time prior to your meeting to think about this so that you can feel confident in the moment and allow for a natural conversation.
Nurture your relationships
Don’t let your connections collect dust! Reach out to the members of your network every season to keep them up-to-date on what you’ve been doing and to hear what they’ve been up to. If you know of any birthdays or reasons to celebrate, bring them up! It’s always great to show that extra care and put a smile on someone’s face.
The best networking comes from a heart of service. Think about ways in which you could put your skills or learnings to use for those in your network. Generosity is often met with generosity.
Great networking resources
LinkedIn – for modern-day networking
LinkedIn is the modern-day alternative to traditional networking opportunities. This platform allows you to easily connect with people who are currently working your dream job, making it an extremely valuable tool. Before using LinkedIn to make new connections, make sure your profile looks up-to-date and professional using our tips.
Once your profile is in good shape, start building your network by connecting with people you know professionally, through school, or based on another common interest. To start networking with individuals who are in a role you’re interested in or employees at your dream company, send a message with your invitation. Craft a brief but personalized message that explains why you’re interested in connecting.
Events – for in-person networking
In the era of technology, networking events may seem old school, but they are still one of the best ways to forge meaningful relationships with others in your field. There is truly no substitute for meeting someone face-to-face. You can find networking events to attend in your area by searching on LinkedIn, staying active with your alumni association, scouring business journals, or by taking in-person classes relevant to your field.
When you meet someone new, be sure to make eye contact, give a firm (but not too tight!) handshake, and have your elevator pitch prepped and ready. It’s a good idea to memorize your pitch before the event, and keep your professional goals in mind as you prepare it—if you’re currently searching for new opportunities, you may want to include that in your pitch.
After your conversation, make sure to get the person’s contact information so you can follow up! Send a quick note within the first 24 hours after the event so that your conversation is still fresh in your mind. Begin by reintroducing yourself and referencing something you spoke about. Just like at the event, remember to think of your correspondence as a two-way street and offer up something helpful in your message, even if it’s just an article or some follow-up thoughts on a topic you discussed.
Before you sign off, include a call to action at the end of your message. Identify a way to move the connection forward, perhaps by taking them out to coffee in the following week.
Socially – for networking within your circle
You never know who you might meet out in the world, and it’s possible you could run into someone who just happens to have your dream job (or is well on their way there). While you shouldn’t approach every social situation as a potential networking opportunity, it’s still advisable to have your elevator pitch ready to go in case you do meet someone incredible who you want to keep in touch with. The same follow-up guidelines apply – don't wait to get something on the calendar! .
Now that you have the tools, it’s time to start making connections.! By staying confident and approaching new professional relationships with a give-and-take mindset, you’ll be amazed at where your network can take you.