Professional networking can help you meet people, gain information, make useful contacts, find job opportunities, get referrals, and score new business leads. It can also add a rewarding dimension to your work life and offer you support and encouragement. If you want to start networking to increase your professional connections, here are some do’s and don’ts to help you succeed:
- Do spend time developing relationships. A wide network with meaningful connections isn’t going to happen overnight. Be ready to invest some significant time and effort into cultivating your network.
- Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Be honest about your talents, abilities, and accomplishments so that others in your network will know the value you bring to the table.
- As recommended by Michael B. Fishbein in The Huffington Post, do listen and be willing to help others by connecting with people or by sharing your experience and knowledge. A professional network should be beneficial for everyone involved, so always be ready to offer assistance and information.
- Don’t limit your network to people from just one field. While you’ll definitely want to form relationships with others in your line of work, look for other networking opportunities such as community groups, charities, civic organizations, or local government. Having a broad professional network expands your number of contacts and opportunities as well as your interests.
- Do be out and about. Look for conferences, events, and classes to attend. Socializing is an integral part of effective networking. While large groups are often conducive to meeting a lot of people, also invite others to meet you for lunch and dinner occasionally to connect in smaller groups and quieter settings.
- Don’t fall out of touch. If you’ve been too busy to attend functions or to see people face-to-face, take time to stay in touch via email, social networking, texting, or with phone calls. Communication is key to successful networking.
- Do make the first move. When there is someone in particular whom you’d like to meet, take the initiative to make it happen. Reach out to the person with a phone call or email, or introduce yourself at a professional or social gathering. If possible, ask a mutual acquaintance to arrange a meeting.
In addition to expanding opportunities, professional networking offers you the chance to share your challenges and your triumphs with others who have similar career interests and goals. You can be useful sounding boards for each other as well as sources of encouragement. Having people to turn to in times of trouble and to celebrate accomplishments with is invaluable. With any luck, you may find that people in your professional network have become true friends as well.