Building connections is an innate ability of humans that’s been around for centuries. Some have leveraged it well; some haven’t discovered this inherent trait. Over time, networking as we know it today, has evolved. Here’s a short guide to modern networking and how you can use it to advance your career goals.
Networking has been in existence for centuries. Building connections, or in other words, networking is one activity without which humans probably wouldn’t have thrived as a community. Way back, building connections among humans was a way of life that everyone relied on for various purposes: to exchange information, get work done, and to socialize and build communities.
Over time, much later, along came the disruptions in the social media space, among which most platforms served as the modern versions of the social network.
Just as fish are to the sea, so are humans to (connection and) networking. And if you’re someone who is focused on your career and professional life, you probably see and hear about networking all around you.
To understand how is networking increasingly gaining importance as an essential tool in a professional’s diary, let’s start with what is networking.
Networking is all about relationship-building. But it may not be as simple as it seems or sounds. Networking requires getting out of your comfort zones (especially for those who tend to be more introverted) and interacting with complete strangers at times. But have no doubts, networking can be a very powerful tool.
Let’s discover more about the power of networking and how you can harness that power to advance your career goals, one connection at a time.
#1: Bring value while connecting
Given how social media is now a part of everyday life, you’re likely to interact as much online, if not more than as offline. So, as you add someone on a professional network, or you initiate a connect with someone in-person or on any platform online, the next and more crucial step is to develop that thread into a mutually beneficial connection. Just as you would research an employer and find out more about the role that you’re applying for, in your search for a job, in the same way, do your background research into who you’re connecting with and eventually seek to build that relationship with. Let this serve as a precedent before you seek to nurture that relationship.
#2: Building trust
To nurture a relationship with a connection into a mutually beneficial one, look at generating trust with your connections. After all, trust is a quintessential in any valuable relationship. And it is basis the trust that you develop, that your connections can then begin to transform into valuable/meaningful relationships.
Some of the ways to build trust in initial interactions are:
#3: Finding new connections
As you set out to finding new connections, think about how you can tap into a pool of connections. And where is it that you could you find this pool, waiting to reciprocate your offer to network?
Glad that you asked. Let’s look at a few scenarios.
Professional network and social media platforms: have a plethora of options from connecting individually, to following someone on those platforms, joining groups, following company pages, to leaving relevant comments on posts. Even resharing posts from organizations and thought leaders can get you noticed. Similarly, you can tap into the power of social across various platforms – right from starting off as a conversation starter, to graduating to being a thought provoker, and eventually, enabling you to be an active contributor to ongoing threads about topics that not just resonate with you, but also serve as the means to attract, build and nurture new connections.
Virtual job fairs: usually have a team of recruiters and professionals representing the employer. As you join the fair to interact with them, make sure you go ready with a number of thoughtful and relevant questions. But more importantly, listen actively to what they share. You’ll be surprised to know how often recruiters recall those candidates who genuinely expressed interest and paid attention during those initial interactions.
Webinars: are aplenty. And sure, you may attend these to learn or know more about a topic or an issue. Even as you enter a webinar as an attendee, see if you leave it as someone who got noticed for asking the right questions – who knows, the conversation can steer to something valuable based on your questions.
Industry events: If you have information on the keynote speakers beforehand, read up about them, do your background research, and go prepared with some thoughtful questions about any topics that may have been outlined. And do carry not just physical cards, but also your authentic self – just in case you run into folks whom you didn’t anticipate meeting. In the event that you do exchange contact information or cards, then post the event, don’t forget to add those people on your professional network with a recap of the conversation you had. You may just end up with a formidable impression about yourself in the minds of those people, and that might be just what you need as a stepping-stone to build your network.
Lastly, whenever you add someone over professional network, not only does rule #1 come in handy here, but also a few pointers:
No matter the place or moment, when you strike up a conversation with anyone, there is usually some information which is exchanged. What’s not to miss is that when you’re exchanging (valuable) information, ensure you nurture your relationships to create an impactful, authentic and reliable network for yourself. From getting a whiff of job opportunities, to information that can help you learn and enhance your awareness and knowledge, there is so much to gain through networking.
All you need to do is get out there, be confident, and strike up a conversation. There’s no right or wrong in attempting to have a conversation with someone; and if you’re in doubt, begin by keeping it relevant, pleasant and light.
As you build your network one connection at a time, remember to stay organized, follow up, and reciprocate.
If you feel you’ve mastered the art of networking, why not put that into practice? Join us for the journey as you discover current opportunities at Deloitte.
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