Networking can feel like an awkward experience in which you make small talk with people while secretly hoping that they’ll take your business card, follow you on LinkedIn, and then later remember to buy your product. The reality is that networking is a critical part of the business world—and it’s not as awkward as you might think. Networking effectively is about building real relationships with other people, not just trying to get something from them. Networking effectively also means focusing on the right type of networking opportunities and learning how to network in a way that benefits you and your business.
What is Networking? #
Networking is simply building relationships and connecting with people in your industry, who can help you achieve your goals. In business, networking can lead to things like joint ventures, strategic partnerships, referrals, and even job opportunities. When you network effectively, you always put your own needs first, while also genuinely helping others. Networking is not something you do once and then forget about. It is an ongoing process that requires time and effort to be effective. Even if you meet someone once and then never see them again, you can still network with them by following up with them in other ways—such as by emailing them with information they might find useful.
Why Is Networking Important? #
Networking is one of the most important elements of business success. Networking is the process of forming relationships with people who can help you achieve your goals, such as growing your business. By networking, you increase your access to resources and establish yourself as a leader. People you network with can help you in a variety of ways. They can serve as mentors, recommend your services, introduce you to potential customers, provide industry insight, and offer other helpful benefits.
How to network effectively #
The key to networking effectively is to make sure it benefits everyone involved. Start by figuring out what you want to get out of networking. What types of relationships would help you and your business? Next, determine where you can network. Look for events and conferences in your industry, as well as other places where you can make connections. You’ll also want to build your approach to networking. The more prepared you are for networking, the more likely you are to get results. When you network, think about the benefits you can offer others, and be genuine and authentic. Here are ways you can network effectively:
- Build Your Network
- Know What You Want
- Prepare for Networking
- Have a Strategy
- Follow Up
- Be Authentic
- Be Strategic
- Don’t Forget the Human Element
Networking Mistakes to Avoid #
If you’re new to networking, you may feel anxious about it. Avoid these common networking mistakes to ensure that networking benefits you and your business:
You don’t know what you want out of networking – Networking is a great strategy, but it won’t work if you don’t know what you want out of it. Before you start networking, sit down and write out what you hope to gain from it.
You’re only looking for one type of connection – For example, you only network with potential clients. By focusing on one type of connection, you’ll lose out on other types of relationships that can be just as valuable.
You don’t know how to network – Networking is a skill that can be learned. If you’re new to networking, it’s important to understand the best ways to build connections with others.
You’re not authentic – Networking is about being genuine and authentic. If you try to pretend to be something you’re not, you’ll only make networking more difficult for yourself.
Networking Events and Conferences #
Networking events are great opportunities to meet people. These events vary in content and focus, ranging from technology and innovation to marketing, real estate, and more. You can find an event in your industry by searching online or by asking around. You can also host your own networking events. Conferences are another helpful way to network with industry experts and thought leaders. Conferences are multi-day events that bring together people from a variety of industries, so networking at a conference is a great way to meet lots of people at once. Before you attend an event or conference, make sure you prepare. You don’t have to have your life planed out, but have an idea of who you want to meet and why. This will help you make the most out of your experience.
Networking Through Relationships #
Networking is about more than picking up the phone and calling someone whose name you found on a business card. Instead, networking is about building genuine relationships with people. When you meet someone new, ask yourself what you can do to show that person that you appreciate their time. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on gifts; there are several simple ways to show appreciation for someone’s time. For example, you can send an email or handwritten card thanking someone for their time. You can also offer to help them out in some way, such as by sharing your industry knowledge or giving them a referral to another company or person.
When you network effectively, you’re always looking to give more than you get. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help or advice. It just means that you approach networking with the right mindset. You also have to be realistic when it comes to networking. You can’t expect to meet one person and then suddenly have an overflowing business. Networking is a long process that requires consistency and patience. However, networking can help you to meet and connect with people in your industry, build relationships, and gain insight into the industry. It’s also a great way to make sure that your business is represented, and that people know who you are.