The importance of networking cannot be overstated when it comes to developing, expanding or retaining your professional circle. A strong network has an impact on your personal growth, as well as potential business opportunities. Here are ten (10) tips to expand and maintain a professional network that sets you up for continued success!
- Develop a directory of your network. This can be as simple as a traditional rolodex or contacts app, spreadsheet trackers, or as you expand, an account with an online software system such as Hubspot or Salesforce.* But most importantly, keep it active and up-to-date!
- Register for and attend new industry events. Your registration will likely include adding your email to new marketing communications, which will in and of itself be useful. But attending in-person events gives you the opportunity to develop new connections you may otherwise never have the chance to meet.
- Create your pitch. When you meet new connections, knowing how to interact, what/how much to say and how to make an impression is key. Know basic topics that can be an ice breaker with nearly anyone to create a common connection.
- Use online networking resources such as LinkedIn to your advantage.* Ensure you keep your profile up-to-date, and utilize the resources and connections these types of sites provide. Post updates, seek out new connections and acknowledge the updates and successes of others.
- Expand your professional social media network.* If you own a business social media page, utilizing the network that already exists on those platforms through actions such as hashtags, location tags and people tags can bring marketing opportunities and connections through the activities you are already doing.
- Create a memorable business card. When you’re at a networking event and hand out your business card, that small item is part of the overall impression you leave. Spend a little more time (and if possible, money) investing in a unique card that represents YOU!
- Stay in touch! Never underestimate the power of old connections. Colleagues from prior jobs may be your best asset in expanding your network. As people move on, the network of each person expands, providing for more potential opportunities.
- Join or volunteer for industry organizations. This is an obvious and easy way to connect with peers and industry leaders for training opportunities, connections and growth.
- Return the favors. Remember that networking is built on two-way connection. Offering opportunities where you have them for others will ultimately create gratitude, and open doors when those individuals you helped along the way have valuable resources to share with you.
- Get to know your connections. While we may meet people through professional networks, getting to know people on a personal level, and knowing what is important to them, will help deepen a connection and has the potential to create further bonding opportunities.
* Extra Tip: Remember when using online methods to store contacts, expand marketing, and to reach out to your network, you often don’t own this content. Make sure to save, store, download and retain those contacts, posts and work products to devices that you will never lose access to. You never know when a website will have an outage or shut down completely, or when a social media network decides to remove your account for no reason at all. The hardest part about networking would then become starting over!