Face-to-face networking is an essential skill, even as we become continually more dependent on technology. Getting your next job opportunity may be reliant on the connections you’ve made throughout your career. Online networking makes this process easier, but it isn’t the whole picture. For the best results, you need to focus on all aspects of networking within your industry as well as online. Here are some best practices to help you get your networking experience off on the right foot.
Online Networking Resources
LinkedIn is the clear winner when it comes to developing and maintaining professional connections online. The site is easy to navigate and provides an entire section dedicated to “People you may know.” Use LinkedIn to connect to former co-workers or managers, other professionals in your area, and groups that apply to your interests or skills. Facebook (interaction) and Twitter (information) can also provide some online networking opportunities. Each social media network provides its own strengths and weaknesses.
In-person Networking Resources
With the ease of connecting online, many people often neglect face-to -face networking. Attend local industry events to meet others in your field where you can feel comfortable talking about your professional and personal interests. If you’re nervous about meeting new people, volunteer so you feel useful and that you are helping others. Join a website like MeetUp.com to find others interested in the same industries or who have the same skills. Online groups often facilitate local meetings as well.
Introduce Yourself Everywhere
Networking in person can be more nuanced than clicking a box on LinkedIn. Carry cards with you at all times. Introduce yourself to people you’re standing in line with at the bank. When you’re out at social events, don’t be afraid to talk about what you do. You never know who you will meet and if they might be able to help you. Gaining more practice by talking with new connections will increase your confidence and make you more comfortable in those situations.
Perform Regular Maintenance
Following up is extremely important when it comes to networking. Contacts you don’t see again are useless and result in thousands of business cards piling up in a drawer. Send a thank-you email the day after you’ve met. Share interesting information you’ve found every once in a while. The best way to keep a connection is to provide a service for them. What can you do that would benefit the relationship? Be a connector and facilitate introductions within your network.
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